If You Build It: The 2014 Governor General’s Medals in Architecture

Tula House, Patkau Architects Inc. (Quadra Island, BC). Lead design architects: John Patkau, FRAIC, Patricia Patkau, FRAIC. Photo: ©  James Dow/Patkau Architects

Winners of the 2014 GG Medals in Architecture will travel to Ottawa to present their projects to the public in a special free evening at the National Gallery of Canada on May 12. The 12 winners, announced last month, have been recognized for projects from across the country, many of which are aimed at enhancing community life.

Aside from Tula House—a single-family home designed by Patkau Architects Inc., perched on the cliffs of a remote island in British Columbia—all of this year’s winning projects are buildings that anyone can see for themselves.

“Overall, the cross-section of winning projects represents Canada in a great, interesting and unique way,” says Wayne DeAngelis, President of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, which administers the medals with the Canada Council for the Arts. “The projects are physically diverse. They are also culturally diverse, and the size and scale of the projects are very different from coast to coast.”

There are two public libraries on the list. One of these is the Bloor/Gladstone branch of the Toronto Public Library. Remarking on the renovation and expansion of this well-known historical building, the jury described the project as “creative and respectful,” and applauded a glass addition that “re-imagines the entranceway and body of the original structure.”

Raymond-Lévesque public library. Firm: Atelier TAG and Jodoin Lamarre Pratte architectes in consortium (Saint-Hubert, QC). Lead design architects: Manon Asselin, Katsuhiro Yamazaki. Photo © Julien Perron-Gagné

The other public library in the mix is the Raymond-Lévesque Public Library in St-Hubert, Quebec. Situated in a unique park setting, it is entirely different from the urban Bloor/Gladstone project. The building’s roof, for example, is shaped to accommodate the prevailing winds, while other elements of the design collect rainwater, and wooden blades on the façade help filter sunlight.

“These awards celebrate the very best buildings in Canada. All of the winners have really designed these buildings with a sensitivity to the location. And that is important, rather than have buildings that looked like they were dropped into their locations from outer space,” says DeAngelis. 

The winning buildings range from a housing co-operative in Toronto, to a new Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of British Columbia, to the restoration and reimagining of the Mies van der Rohe gas station on Nun’s Island in Montreal. 

The Nun’s Island building, designed in 1969 in the Modernist style, is no longer a filling station. Designated a heritage building in 2009 by the City of Montreal, it has been undergoing restoration by Les Architectes FABG of Montreal since 2012. This architectural reinvention not only preserves the Modernist roots of the original, but is designed to serve as a community space.

60 Richmond East Housing Co-Operative. Teeple Architects Inc. (Toronto, ON). Lead design architect: Stephen Teeple, FRAIC. Photo: ©  Shai Gil

“The winning projects for 2014 are gathering places for sharing knowledge, building community, governing cities, meeting neighbours, and engaging with the arts and culture,” says Robert Sirman, Director and CEO of the Canada Council. “Architecture may well be the art form that affects us most, and the Canada Council for the Arts is proud to celebrate the best of Canadian architecture with these awards.”

The winners, who were announced on April 23, will present their projects during a free public lecture in the auditorium of the National Gallery of Canada on May 12 at 6 p.m. Seating will be on a first come, first served basis. Each architect will take five minutes to describe their project, followed by a question-and-answer session with the audience. The medals themselves will be presented in a ceremony at Rideau Hall on May 13.

To see all of the winning projects, please click here.

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