Keeping up traditions

28 Oct 2011

Museum tells history of Waterloo region through colour, quilting and technology

Completed in 2010, the LEED Gold Waterloo Region Museum celebrates, through colour, the region's pioneering past and technology-driven present.

Providing a rich context for a history museum, the Waterloo Region was settled in the early 1800s by German Mennonite farmers from Pennsylvania. The Mennonites brought a longstanding tradition of quilt-making, and their bold, large-scale abstract patterns and unusual colour combinations soon evolved, through the influences of other newcomers, into a form of cultural expression unique to the area.

Today, the 'Quilt Capital of Canada' is also known as 'Canada's Technology Triangle', home to BlackBerry creators RIM and other major high-technology companies. To fulfil the client's brief and vision of embodying the community's inclusive and innovative spirit within a visually iconic and sustainable building, the architects expressed traditional textiles and advanced technologies in a coloured glass 'quilt wall' with energy-efficient lighting.

Composed of over 500 panels, the quilt wall mixes vivid blues, yellows, reds, greens, oranges and browns drawn from the museum's collection of historic quilts. Design innovation and technology determined the colour pattern: using the 16-digit hexadecimal code of mathematics and computer programming, the panels translate into colour a seminal quote by Sir Wilfred Laurier, Canada's seventh Prime Minister, that expresses the essence of the museum: "We do not want, that any individuals should forget the land of their origin or their ancestors. Let them look to the past, but let them also look to the future; let them look to the land of their ancestors, but let them also look to the land of their children."

The wall's vibrant colours, luminous effects and multiple levels of meaning establish a distinctive visual identity for the museum, attract and engage visitors, and create a unique window into the compelling stories of people and place that inspired this project.

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