The design philosophy for this submission is grounded in democratic traditions tempered by contemporary values. As an expression of participatory democracy at the level of municipal government, elected officials, municipal departments, and services should be visible and accessible.
To resolve the challenge of establishing a highly visible landmark building, we developed a prominent symbolic front facing a lake, thus recalling and reinterpreting the traditional siting of 19th-century public buildings.
From Highway 7 and Warden Avenue, the graceful curved wall is viewed as both building and landscape. The wide arc, faced in a combination of rough textured and honed finished Ontario stone, provides a backdrop for the council chamber and winter garden. Both are sited in the artificial lake, which combines a shallow reflecting pond (a winter skating rink) with a deeper storm water retention pond. The council chamber is a stone-clad drum with a metal domed roof while the winter garden is composed of a clear glass pyramidal skylight, resting on a gridded glass cube. These two geometric volumes and the civic tower are the principal figures in the composition, creating a picturesque ensemble whose foreground is defined by the irregular lake edge. Night lighting will dramatize the powerful image of primary architectural elements when viewed from the highway.
While the curved wall and lake create a symbolic front to the south, the public entrance of the municipal building faces north. From Town Centre Drive, vehicles pass through gateposts and up to the tree-lined drive to the civic plaza and parking court. This large, relatively flat plateau sits one level higher than lake level. A sequence of spaces, clearly open to view, is established along a north-south axis: the parking court, civic plaza, canopied building entrance, interior civic court, and finally, the council chamber. A secondary north-south axis is established on the alignment of the existing Unionville High School, Markham Theatre, and Warden Avenue, representing the order of the Ontario concession road grid. The arcade draws the two existing buildings into the composition.
The focal point of the civic plaza is the civic tower, skewed off axis to command the view upon approach from Town Centre Boulevard. The two clock faces acknowledge its position at the end of two separate vistas. The tower, acting as a vertical pivot point between the public civic plaza and the staff parking lots at lake level, marks arrival from the lower level and allows pedestrian passage through its open base. Landscaping, a major strategy in our scheme, is often used to organize a comprehensive system of public spaces: three square outdoor rooms, defined by an evergreen screen, accommodate staff parking at lake level; a series of promenade walks, formal gardens, and regular tree planting extends the building's public space into the site. The landscaping establishes formal relationships within the complex as a whole. Earth ziggurats anchor the curved wall to the site while landscaping; lighting and paving extend north of the site to suggest a long-range vision of a unified ensemble of public institutions fronting the landscaped court.
A second major strategy is historical reference. Our architectural and landscape motifs borrow from time-honoured forms of civic architecture, parks, and gardens. Our design tries to display a sense of permanence, civility, and symbolic value. However, the civic elements and spaces that allude to the past are reinterpreted in a way that is new and employs current building technologies.
The civic court, representing the Public, is appropriately positioned at the building's centre. It engenders a sense of connection between the administrative departments, organized around its perimeter in a visual and symbolic relationship, and the executive wing housed in the middle portion of the curved wall. The reception areas and counter services of the administrative departments are presented on the Public walkways around its edge. With walls finished in light-coloured wood and stone, wood-coffered ceilings with small skylights and stone floors, the civic court imparts a sense of richness, dignity and tradition.
The jury also had praise for the two competitors. It was impressed by the meticulous architectural refinement and sumptuous presentation of Myers' submission. The main reservations about the scheme concerned its siting and the sequences of views it created. It was felt that the Erickson scheme was more successful at sustaining an overall feeling of spaciousness on the site, and that views out of the building were less considered in the Myers' scheme.
(From jury report)
8 scanned / 5 viewable
- Photograph of Model