LOCATION: Vaughan, Ontario

ARCHITECT: Adamson Associates Architects

DESIGN LEADERSHIP: Michael Poitras, Partner-in-Charge of Design

COMPETITION: Open Design Competition – Second Place

CLIENT: City of Vaughan


  • No. of storeys: 6
  • Total floor area (building): 384,370 ft2 (35,709 m2)
  • Total floor area (base): 59,740 ft2 (5,550 m2)
  • Below grade parking: 535 (including 12 barrier free)
  • Loading docks: 3

  • Curtain wall + horizontal maple wood battens set between the glass
  • Highly textured buff brick
  • Limestone floors
  • Oak floors
  • Concrete terraces
  • Tile mosaic mural
  • Outdoor landscaping

  • Council chamber
  • Mayor’s office
  • City Councillors’ offices (8)
  • 3-storey multi-purpose “city room”
  • Administration offices
  • Art gallery
  • Corporate presentation centre
  • Corporate training centre
  • Food services
  • Staff exercise centre
  • Daycare centre
  • Chapel
  • 4th floor public roof terrace
  • Children’s terrace
  • Resource library
  • Outdoor public space
LEED: Silver
COST: Withheld

While strategizing how to design a new civic centre for this competition entry, it became apparent that a master plan was critical in order to organize the many components of this vast site and locate all the requisite buildings.

Master Plan

With the competition rules requiring the existing civic centre to remain intact until its replacement was built and occupied, a five-part master plan was developed around it. As such, 1. We embellished Major Mackenzie Drive to become a new boulevard lined with both coniferous and deciduous trees, signalling its importance as a civic street; 2. To the north we increased the scale of buildings along Major Mackenzie Drive with a new mixed-use commercial development, appropriate for such a street; 3. To the south, we created a pedestrian link starting on the east side of the site, at the historically designated “Lord Beaverbrook House” and traveling west through the future mixed-use institutional buildings, through the new civic centre and concluding at the relocated “GO Station” at the site’s western boundary; 4. We added a large pond south of the civic centre, adding a natural focal point for all buildings and adjacent houses and lastly, 5. We wrapped the pond with topography and trees, along with a new five-court bocce ball pavilion and a new seniors’ residence (Maple Manor Retirement Home), completing the vision for this master plan.

Civic Centre

With good political conduct requiring transparency at every turn, “transparency” became the guiding architectural theme for the civic centre’s contemporary urban design. With that, the building is composed of two adjoining “transparent boxes” of differing height, complete with a specialized curtain wall skin. The curtain wall is made from tightly spaced horizontal maple wood battens set between two layers of glass. This rather unique glass assembly gives the building’s exterior a warm inviting honey colour, while internally the sunlight penetrating through the battens is “dappled”, similar in effect to rays filtering through a forest on a sunny day. In both cases, the building would exude a nature-inspired quality, appropriate to this picturesque site.

The smaller of the two “glass boxes” contains the multi-purpose “City Room”, an enormous space to be used for indoor public and civic events. Inspired by Vaughan’s slogan, “The City Above Toronto” we hung the onyx stone and glass council chamber from the City Room’s structural framework high above, with dramatic architectural effect. Further, by back-lighting the semi-transparent onyx stone of the council chamber, its warm glow would signal to all that council is in session.

Supporting the two “glass boxes” is a textured buff-coloured brick “base”, that is partially submerged into the site, to disguise its enormous mass. Expressing itself as a long, low brick colonnade, complete with floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors and a water-side concrete terrace, the “base” sits directly adjacent to the pond. As a result, the natural cooling effect of the pond’s micro-climate – nature’s “air conditioning” – is capable of cooling the building’s base during the hot summer months, while providing the perfect backdrop for all of its perimeter rooms.