The Royal Architecture Institute of Canada (RAIC) and the Canada Council for the Arts have awarded Perkins+Will with a 2016 Governor General’s Medal in Architecture—the highest architectural honor in the country. The award, which recognizes outstanding achievement in recently built projects by Canadian architects, specifically celebrates Perkins+Will’s revitalization of Nathan Phillips Square, a joint effort with PLANT Architect.
Designed in 1961 by Modernist icon Viljo Revell, the heritage-designated Nathan Phillips Square has served as Toronto’s premier outdoor public space and civic gathering place, a tourist attraction, and national and provincial landmark. However, over time, and with more than 1.5 million visitors attending events hosted on the square every year, it had become run-down and dysfunctional. The revitalization project breathed new life into it—creating new multi-purpose buildings like a public pavilion, an ice rink and washroom, a canopied theater, and a two-story restaurant, as well as a tourist information kiosk and public gardens. In evaluating the project for Canada’s highest architectural honor, the jury deemed it “one of the most outstanding public spaces in Canada.”
“It’s important for us to take care of our public spaces because they’re the ones we all use and share,” said Andrew Frontini, design director for the Ontario practice of Perkins+Will. “By opening the centre of the square to create a space of infinite potential, intensifying the bio mass through the creation of a new urban forest, and energizing the perimeter through the creation of a programmed, yet porous threshold that is inviting from all approaches, Nathan Philips Square has become one of the world’s great public spaces again.”
The newly reprogrammed and redesigned square is also targeting LEED Gold, featuring reclaimed heat and cooling from City Hall’s district energy plant, storm-water retention for grey-water reuse, and green roofs and increased biomass.
The Governor General’s Medal in Architecture will be formally presented September 20 during a ceremony at Rideau Hall.
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