CIGI Campus (from Award Magazine)

August 26th, 2011


Located in Waterloo, Ontario, the new CIGI Campus (at The Centre for International Governance Innovation), which is scheduled for completion in September, 2011, will support Research in Motion (RIM) co-CEO Jim Balsillie’s goal of strengthening Canada’s role in international affairs.

The new three-storey building will house a group of distinct schools and programs, including the existing Balsillie School of International Affairs – a collaborative partnership between CIGI, the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University.

“The new CIGI Campus will be a hub of excellence in research and study in international affairs,” says Fred Kuntz, CIGI’s vice president of public affairs. “It will become a unique ‘incubator’ of ideas about international governance and global issues. With the addition of an international law program expected over the coming year, the campus will be a powerhouse of relevant and policy-oriented research.”

The Campus is bound by three Governor General Award-winning buildings: the former Seagram Museum (now The Centre for International Governance Innovation offices), the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and the Canadian Clay & Glass Gallery. “The neighbouring structures pro- vided a strong incentive for us to match the high standards that have been set,” says Kuntz. “We asked for a design that sets us apart and fosters collaboration and intellectual creativity. We are very satisfied with the marvellous building that emerged.”

Toronto-based KPMB Architects designed the Campus based on Balsillie’s desire for an academic courtyard building with a bell tower, similar to the University of Toronto’s Massey and Trinity Colleges and others in the Oxbridge style. “We designed a contemporary reinterpretation of an academic courtyard building,” says architect Shirley Blumberg, KPMB’s partner in charge of the project. “This is an institution with huge global and local ambitions – Balsillie and the building committee wanted the Campus to be a valuable addition to Uptown Waterloo. The project makes a major contribution to the increasing urbanization of the precinct. The understated brick exterior references Waterloo’s rich industrial heritage.”


The courtyard is enclosed on three sides by academic bar buildings that contain classrooms and offices. A two-story glass auditorium building forms the fourth side o9f the courtyard. This auditorium building is the principal entrance to the campus, denoted by a super-scaled wood entrance canopy and stone bell tower. “From the large entrance lobby,” says Blumberg. “You can see three Governor General’s Award-winning projects: the Perimeter Institute, CIGI and the Clay and Glass Gallery and the universities. By looking through the courtyard, one has the feeling of a broader campus. When entering from the south, one is on axis with the Bell Tower. The experience of the building is carefully choreo- graphed. It’s an understated form outside, but the interior is very animated and highly transparent – all floors have views of the courtyard.”

“Jim Balsillie wanted both a sanctuary and a vibrant learning environment,” says Blumberg. “To do this, we created nodes along the corridors such as the fireplace lounges and study areas around the courtyard.”

Durable building materials for the exterior and interior were chosen. The ground floor has wood and stone elements, while the upper floors have dry- wall (white), sandblasted glass for the fronts of the offices, concrete toppings and cork flooring for the offices.

“We wanted a warm and inviting environment and we employed a very limited palette,” says Blumberg. “The stone and the brick are similar in terms of tonality and the wood used throughout the building is fairly dark.” The selection of materials, she adds, was based on the interplay with natural light that pours into the auditorium lobby and hits the exposed corridors, dark concrete floors and white painted drywall.

The landscaping also blends in with the exterior, with trees (birches, maples and London plane trees) and plants chosen to ensure that the traffic on Erb Street was minimized and that the courtyard, which consists of mature trees, will provide colours throughout the four seasons. An art piece created by Richard Fleischner will be placed in the courtyard.

While the building is not LEED certified, Blumberg says that design exceeds many LEED standards. “We’ve gone beyond LEED,” she says. “It is a highly energy efficient building – we’re probably at 50 per cent energy savings. We are also using Bubbledeck concrete slabs that reduce the amount of concrete by 30 per cent.”

KPMB received the commission to design the Campus in 2008. Blumberg says the structure has exceeded their expectations. “You design a building by imagining a myriad of possible scenarios, and when you’re actually on site and it looks like you imagined it or better, it’s a great feeling,” she says. “The team is very excited.”

Cooper Construction Ltd. received the contract to construct the Campus in May 2009, with construction starting in August. Cooper’s project manager Bruno D’Aloisio noted that several challenges were encountered from the start, including the soil conditions. “We had very wet and silky sand here due to being in a floodplain,” says D’Aloisio.

Save for the use of the Bubbledeck slab system, the construction followed traditional techniques. “It was a little bit of a learning curve for us and it took a bit longer,” says D’Aloisio. “There was also the challenge of installing new window systems, in-floor heating and cooling systems with the slab system, and the use of all kinds of wood products throughout the building, including columns, floors, soffits and ceilings.”

Coordination and planning continues to be crucial to maintaining the construction schedule. “We’re in the home-stretch and are working together with KPMB and CIGI to give everybody what they want,” says D’Aloisio. “We have a great team that makes problem solving much easier and ensures a collaborative environment. It is taking a little longer than we anticipated, but at the end, everybody will be pleased the final result.”

Reproduced with permission from Award Magazine.

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