An Homage to Award-worthy Wood Design
By: Clare Tattersall
Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than having happy clients at the successful completion of a project. But being recognized for my work would definitely be a close second. While I have yet to enter a design competition, I enjoy reading about the accolades of others, as their efforts serve as a source of inspiration.
On that note, the Canadian Wood Council recently celebrated the work of architects at the 2022/2023 Wood Design & Building Awards. Three Canadian projects received the highest honour for their excellence in wood design and construction, with four others recognized with either a merit or citation award. This is an astounding feat given the record-setting 181 nominations from 25 countries, and much deserving of our attention and kudos.
Churchill Meadows Community Centre and Mattamy Sports Park (Honour Award)
Located in Mississauga, Ont., this 75,000-square-foot community centre and 57-acre park was designed by MJMA Architecture and Design on what was formerly agricultural lands for area residents. The centre boasts a six-lane, 25-metre lap pool, therapeutic pool, triple gymnasium, fitness studios, multipurpose rooms, including a teaching kitchen, and administrative and support spaces.
The park features four tournament-quality sports fields, a playground, splash pad, skate park, multi-purpose court, outdoor fitness equipment and walking trails. On approach, the crystalline, metal mesh exterior reveals a robust wood structure. The spacious, double-height lobby with its grand spruce glulam timber staircase is topped by an open structure of massive, wood glulam beams that act as barriers to light and sound. The gym, lobby and pool are all wrapped with glulam framing
Neil Campbell Rowing Centre (Honour Award)
Also designed by MJMA in conjunction with Raimondo + Associates Architects Inc., the 13,300-square-foot rowing centre named in honour of Canadian rower and Olympic champion, Neil Campbell, was built as part of the 2022 Canada Games regatta. The cantilevered timber roof encloses the space for off-water training and conditioning and provides ample overhang for the outdoor viewing area facing the water. It’s composed of two slabs of cross-laminated timber (CLT), with a composite structure in the middle.
Lake Muskoka Boathouse (Honour Award)
A modern take on the classic Canadian structure, the 1,000-square-foot boathouse designed by Boston-based Turkel Design is a stunning addition to the lake region’s waterfront. It’s constructed entirely of regionally sourced wood for its ability to age gracefully to a silver patina. Laminated exposed Douglas fir post-and-beam construction is amply sized to support the hoisted load of a boat suspended above the ice for storage (in addition to the snow load on the roof above).
The cladding is a simple spaced fir board. Edges were bevelled to allow water to drip off easily. The open lattice of the cladding enables air movement needed for drying. It also allows the building to glow warmly from within, presenting a welcome sight and wayfinding tool to boaters returning at dusk. Components of the Port Carling, Ont., boathouse were fabricated off-site to maximize an already short building season and ensure it could be completed quickly so that the owners would not lose a summer to construction.
Prince George Fire Hall (Merit Award)
Replacing an aging fire headquarters in downtown Prince George, B.C., that could no longer meet the needs of the growing city, the new hcma-designed fire hall is a community safety hub, combining both fire and rescue operations under one roof. The building’s form rises from one-storey at its western end to three stories on its eastern side in gesture of resilience and to fit with the surrounding landscape. Wood was chosen for the interior as a contrast to the dark exterior cladding, to celebrate the important role this forest product has played within the local community and economy, and to demonstrate that it’s a fire-safe, durable material.
Mass timber products employed, such as nail-laminated timber (NLT) and laminated veneer lumber (LVL), char when exposed to flame, forming a protective layer. The firehall’s front entrance stairwell is wrapped with NLT from floor to ceiling. More than 3,000 pieces of lumber were used to construct this component of the facility, which was done on-site with a fully randomized pattern of boards. Plywood decking and LVL were used for the ceiling of the large expansive truck bays. Where large openings were required in the nearly 27,000-square-foot building, the design team carved away the form to reveal wood finishes to passersby.
Historians’ Library and Residence (Merit Award)
Embedded into a gentle slope and connecting the kitchen and sitting area to a rear garden, the wood clad additions to a small home in Cambridge, Ont., were constructed to provide a sense of refuge to two historians for private study. Salvaged western red cedar from the existing residence was milled and re-integrated. Passive House-inspired details incorporate high insulation levels, minimal thermal bridging and careful attention to air tightness. The additions were designed by Dowling Architects with undergraduate architecture students, allowing the opportunity to modify and develop details as the project evolved.
Angle of Repose (Citation Award)
Serving as an all-season residence in Ontario’s Algonquin Highlands, the cross-laminated timber lake house by Reasonable Projects is almost exclusively wood inside, from floor to walls to ceiling, to reflect the homeowner’s desire for a homogenous look that spoke to the surrounding forest. Glulam timber rafters – 26 pairs that become progressively steeper from the home’s western to eastern end – and CLT wall panels were shipped from Austria. Insulation is also derived from wood. A two-inch thick blanket of blown cellulose wraps the building, providing thermal insulation necessary to achieve sustainability goals.
Rouyn-Noranda Air Terminal (Citation Award)
Designed by EVOQ in conjunction with ARTCAD Architects, the new air terminal in Rouyn-Noranda, Que., serves to increase the city’s visibility as the capital of the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, and highlight the importance of its mining and forestry industries. Harvested and transformed in the area, wood can be found in all public spaces of the single volume, two-story building.
Airline passengers are greeted in the double-height front entrance hall by imposing glue-laminated timber columns, which at their tops become beams. The ceiling is comprised of a CLT slab. This slab can be found elsewhere in the terminal building, deployed to great effect for the hybrid wood and steel structure’s cantilevered portions. Perforated copper-coloured metal screens that top the roof and fold over the sides of the building filter sunlight and cast beautiful shadows on interior wood walls.
Clare Tattersall is an interior designer and decorator in Toronto, and the editor of Canada’s floor covering magazine, Coverings.