Page D1.2 . 30 April 2003                     
ArchitectureWeek - Design Department
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Architecture Canada


The three principal elements of the building share a restrained palette of materials — glass, concrete and wood — and each element expresses its function. The horizontal bands of clear and spandrel glass in the eight-story administrative tower are offset by the two glazed stair towers.

The circular council chamber, with its concrete colonnade and glazed walls, is visible and open to the surrounding community. Its interior wood finishes provide a warm and dignified aura for this important public room. The two-story meeting house creates an east-west galleria with repetitive glulam Douglas fir frames.

Canadian Green

Strategic green building initiatives were incorporated into the Richmond City Hall complex, which is currently highlighted as the model office building for Canada's Commercial Building Incentive Program.

To create an effective and healthy workplace, the administrative tower was designed as a robust loft. A raised floor and an open office partitioning system provide flexibility of use. Fire exit stairs, normally located in the light-locked core of office buildings, are located on the perimeter, where natural light and views encourage their use instead of elevators. Each floor also has access to exterior balconies and terraces.

Daylight harvesting was maximized with daylight-sensing controls. Light levels are controlled by interior blinds. South-facing exterior horizontal louvers control solar gain and glare. Porcelain-fritted glass was used on the west facade to avoid excessive heat gain.

Natural ventilation was achieved through operable windows, with automatic switching interfaced with localized mechanical controls. The building was designed to perform 30 percent below ASHRAE 90.1. Mechanical ventilation is provided by two central make-up air units that deliver twice as much outside air as specified by the Model National Energy Code for Buildings. In effect, a hybrid ventilation system has been achieved, extending environmental comfort, control, and responsibility to office workers.

Building materials were selected for long-term durability. Landscape design strategies included the retention of existing heritage trees, the use of high-quality soils, and the introduction of indigenous, low-maintenance trees and plant materials. Landscape and architecture have been integrated in a seamless, articulated public environment that speaks to the evolving identity of the Canadian West Coast.

Thornbrough Addition

The addition to the Albert Thornbrough Building was designed by Teeple Architects for the College of Physical & Engineering Science at the University of Guelph, Ontario. This new information technology center responds to increased student enrolment in engineering and computer science and was funded through the Government of Ontario's Access To Opportunities Program.

Located at the intersection of two prominent pedestrian walks and between two existing buildings, this new facility bifurcates the site and creates two new campus spaces. These courts reflect the dual architectural heritage of the University of Guelph by responding to the character of the adjacent buildings.

This also gives the new building no overall single image. One of the courts is a soft landscape area, formed entirely by walls of brick. The other is a hard-surface student piazza with walls of buff precast and sandblasted glass facing the pedestrian walks. Surfaces that do not define these two outdoor spaces are metal and glass, to highlight the new facility as a technology-enhanced learning environment. A third landscape court is a private space for users of the facility.

The internal organization of the new building extends the adjacent buildings without interruption. Its shifting lines of circulation reveal a series of landscapes to the visitor through filtered light and exterior views. Long slotted skylights and openings in the second floor offer a visual connection between Engineering and Computer Science departments and introduce shafts of natural light. The tactile materiality of stack-bond block, coreslab, steel, and wood contrasts the glass and smooth white surfaces.

High-Tech on Campus

The new addition consists of a 100-seat lecture theater with tiered seating and continuous desks wired for laptop use, three 60-seat computer laboratories with custom computer desks and under-floor cable trays; three computer-based electrical research laboratories; faculty and graduate offices, technical support rooms, lounge, and administration rooms.

The classrooms feature multimedia teaching facilities with ceiling-mounted computer-imaging projectors, motorized screens, and data ports at each seat. A flexible platform for computer technology has state-of-the-art access floors that act as both a cabling chase and a supply air plenum for the computer labs.

The building structure consists of precast coreslab floors and roof, supported on load-bearing masonry walls or steel frame. The coreslab enabled electrical conduit to be run through the hollow cores and often served as the finished ceiling surface. The drop-in-place construction method expedited the construction schedule, as did the sequential tendering (bidding) process.

The exterior building materials consist of four main assemblies: precast concrete panels on steel frame with steel stud backup; stack-bond brick cavity wall with steel stud back-up; insulated metal siding system on masonry wall or steel stud backup; and curtain-wall glazing system with low-e glass and insulated spandrel panels.

The building also has sunshade devices on the south facades of the office wings, under-floor duct and cabling plenums, translucent glazing, and innovative "green" mechanical systems.

As Governor Clarkson sums up these projects: "We [Canadians] ask for shelter from the harsh and unpredictable elements of our land. But the gigantic informing presence of Canada’s landscape makes us chafe at mere utility in our buildings. Our architectural heritage gives us Georgian, Gothic and beaux-arts, and while we love these built legacies from our past, we belong to the New World."

This article is excerpted from Architecture Canada 2002, copyright © 2002, available from Tuns Press and at

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ArchWeek Image

Rear elevation of the Richmond City Hall by Hotson Bakker Architects and Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects.
Photo: Martin Tessler

ArchWeek Image

Richmond City Hall's circular council chamber.
Photo: Martin Tessler

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Richmond City Hall ground floor plan.
Image: Hotson Bakker Architects andKuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects

ArchWeek Image

The addition to the Albert Thornbrough Building, designed by Teeple Architects for the College of Physical & Engineering Science at the University of Guelph, Ontario.
Photo: Tom Arban

ArchWeek Image

One of the landscaped courts embraced by the Albert Thornbrough Building is formed by walls of brick.
Photo: Tom Arban

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Inside the Albert Thornbrough Building.
Photo: Tom Arban

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Albert Thornbrough Building ground floor plan.
Image: Teeple Architects

ArchWeek Image

Architecture Canada 2002.
Image: Tuns Press


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