22.01.2014 Florian Maier

Centre for International Governance and Innovation (CIGI) Campus

The Centre is located on a 3.9 acre site formerly occupied by the Seagram distillery. The campus, a reinterpretation of a traditional academic quad building based on the Oxford model, also houses the Balsillie School of International Affairs. The client asked for a campus to last at least 100 years, a “vibrant sanctuary,” to facilitate reflection, collaboration, and discussion. The solution consists of two three-storey, interconnected buildings and an auditorium pavilion organized around a courtyard.

Architects: KPMB Architects
Location: 57 Erb Street West, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 6C2
The scale, proportions and materials of the brick elevations facing the street are a direct response to the 19th-century masonry industrial buildings in the surrounding neighborhood. In contrast, three-story glazed elevations face the courtyard to promote face-to-face interactions among the students and scholars who frequent the Centre.
Classrooms, offices, and the auditorium are organized off a spacious, continuous corridor. Much like a cloister, the corridor features floor-to-ceiling windows facing the courtyard, and it is furnished with seating and fireplaces to invite chats and collaboration. The program also includes private spaces for work requiring quiet and concentration. A limited palette of local limestone and brick masonry, wood, and glass was used to create a serene atmosphere for study and reflection. The materials are natural and long-wearing, and they promote the local economy and identity.
In addition to sustainable materials, the building features a bubble deck system, which was used to reduce carbon emissions associated with concrete. The system displaces 30 percent of concrete by placing air bubbles within the concrete slab. The bubbles reduce the weight of the concrete, which results in thinner, longer structural spans.
The CIGI Campus received the 2014 AIA Institute Honor Award in Architecture. Jury Comments
  • The scale, simplicity, and richness of the entry, with its huge canopy, seem very appropriate for an international governance institution.
  • The materials are wonderful – rich and warm – and every detail addresses the street.
  • The building feels humble, yet sophisticated. It reinvents ways of using light; it uses the reflection off of the white masonry walls to illuminate the space. The sustainable program and design are well integrated.
  • The openness of the architecture reflects the nature of the program – transparency of governance.
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