Editor’s Pick: Theoretical Institute, Executed
February 22, 2011
Situated on the shore of Silver Lake in Ontario, Canada, is a rectilinear building which may seem straightforward from the exterior, though its many virtues are revealed in its four elevations and later, through its surprising interiors. Surprising for a theoretical physics research center, anyhow.
Saucier + Perrotte architectes reference the ‘micro- and macro-cosmic properties’ of the discipline by packing a lot of information into clean, organized spaces. Breaking it down to a 1:1 ratio, interior bridgeways act as neural pathways between the building’s various functions. With additional credit for superb architectural photography, click through to check out images from Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.
Straight from the mouth of architects, “The interior of the Institute is organized around two central spaces, the main hall on the ground floor and the garden on the first. Spaces for administration, meeting and seminar rooms, leisure and fitness spaces, and a multipurpose theatre for symposia and public presentations, have direct access to the main hall. The circulation corridors running east-west are positioned between the opalescent glass planes, which are occasionally punctured and shifted to reveal views across the interior space of the hall.”
The design brief, as given by PI, included the following:
- The building must present a warm and convivial atmosphere, be aesthetically pleasing, and contain an abundance of natural light.
- There must be a harmonious balance between private and public space throughout – a productive mixture of formal and informal discussion space combined with areas for quiet reflection and calculation.
- The facility should be capable of running scientific conferences and occasional public events without unduly impinging on the resident research activities.
- The Institute should be a landmark building for the entire community of Kitchener-Waterloo – to showcase a top quality, international research centre made possible by the vision and the success of a local company and its founder.
The building defines the secure zones of the Institute’s facilities within a series of parallel glass walls, embedded in an erupting ground plane that reveals a large reflecting pool. The north façade (detail above), facing the park across this pool, reveals the Institute as an organism, a microcosm of discrete elements. The south façade (below), facing the city across train tracks and the city’s main arterial road, presents the Institute as a unified but transforming entity, of enigmatic scale and content.
The site plays an instrumental role in how the architects interpreted the brief: “Riding the controversial line between public and private space, this research institute attempts to subvert the usual hard thresholds established by private enterprise in the public realm. Adjacent to the primary pedestrian access between the university campus and the city centre, the site is an urban wilderness between clearly defined worlds.”