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An urban future for Vaughan

James
Tuesday 03 Jul 2012

KPMB completes new centrepiece for expanding Toronto township

The City of Vaughan, originally a rural township located at the northern edge of Toronto, is transitioning from a rural past to an urban future. Since 1981, the town has witnessed unprecedented growth, rapidly replacing farmland with housing and ‘big box' retail. Vaughan City Hall is Phase 1 of a proposed three-phase civic centre campus design that includes a public resource library, civic square, reflecting pool / skating rink, gardens and parkland. 

The site comprises 24 acres on the site of the original City Hall designed in the 1970s. It is bounded on the north and west by multi-lane highways. On the east it is bordered by interregional railway tracks and on the south it backs onto a residential subdivision.

A design competition was held to reimagine what a suburban city centre could be. Rather than one large building, the winning scheme creates a civic campus of low-rise structures configured to shape a series of outdoor public spaces and parklands. These include the newly completed City Hall which houses the Council Chamber and civic administrative offices and future buildings for the Chamber of Commerce, a Public Library and an office building.

The City Hall comprises three buildings, each organised around a linear atrium to maximise natural light and through-ventilation. Materials include terra cotta, copper and glass. The overall composition is laid out to a series of east-west bands that recall the region's agricultural heritage, specifically the linear pattern of land cultivation and the concession grid.

The order is inspired by the clarity of Ontario town planning where City Hall, Civic Square, Market and Cenotaph define an identifiable civic precinct. It also draws on the European square where architecture is used to define spaces for meeting, demonstration and celebration.

This building is a tangible expression of the City's commitment to environmental stewardship and a benchmark for sustainable development in a suburban community, recognising that civic pride is an essential attractor for growth and development.

The 280,000-sq-ft project is expected to be one of the largest civic buildings in Canada to achieve LEED Gold. The original requirement for 900 surface parking spaces was replaced with underground parking to maximise surface land for green space. Connecting stairs within the atrium reduce elevator use. The building is expected to realise a savings of 25% in operational costs annually compared to the operating costs of a conventional building of the same size.

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