TORONTO – A landmark interdisciplinary centre has officially opened at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, heart of Canada’s high tech triangle. Lazaridis Hall is the new home of the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics, the Department of Mathematics as well as centres for the management of technology enterprise, entrepreneurship and social innovation.
This large 226,000-square-foot (20,440sm) building designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects engages both campus and community. The university sought an iconic structure to raise its profile as well as to signal expansion across a major thoroughfare and the start of a new campus precinct. In this way, Lazaridis Hall is both a gateway and a crossroads, supported by a wide range of dynamic meeting, teaching and collaboration spaces.
The beauty and clarity of this four-storey structure is achieved through large overhangs that appear to effortlessly float on top of each other. The stratified floors deconstruct the massing and add visual interest to the varied building facades. On the west side, cantilevered space extends by as much as 75 feet over the curvilinear form of the 1000-seat auditorium. On the east side, the drum-shaped design of a 300-seat lecture theatre is suspended above a café on what appears to be remarkably few steel columns.
“These strong building forms celebrate significant program components and contribute to the building’s expression and presence along University Avenue,” said Donald Schmitt, Principal, Diamond Schmitt Architects. “At the same time, they articulate a unifying expression that continues in the interior.”
At the heart of the building is a 140-foot by 70-foot (42m x 21m) atrium beneath an undulating skylight. This bright, interconnected space contributes daylight and view within a large floor plate so that virtually all occupied spaces – including more than 240 faculty offices – have windows to the exterior, atrium or courtyard. Informal study lounge space and breakout rooms interspersed within and around the atrium on all levels are designed to facilitate informal exchange that supports peer learning and collaboration, setting the stage for this building as incubator.
“This atrium is designed for comfort with frit in 40 percent of the skylight glazing to eliminate glare and extensive acoustic treatment behind the wood-lined walls of the atrium,” said Birgit Siber, Diamond Schmitt Principal and project architect. A leading-edge finance lab, math labs and a hub for entrepreneurship have floor-to-ceiling glass walls facing the atrium to encourage drop-in observation and activity. The entire building is designed for collaborative, active learning with technology-driven infrastructure.
Lazaridis Hall is positioned to achieve LEED Gold certification, the 2030 Challenge for fossil fuel reduction and OADA Standards for accessibility. This energy efficient mandate includes a high performance envelope, only a 20 percent glazing-to-wall ratio, radiant heating and cooling, displacement ventilation and a large photovoltaic array on the roof.
The main three-storey glass entranceway flanks the curved perimeter of the elliptical-shaped auditorium, drawing the public inwards along its graceful wood-lined arc. Not only for lectures, conferences and ceremonies, the large yet intimate room is acoustically engineered to function as a venue for performance as well, which is another way Lazaridis Hall is able to connect with its community.
“This building has the ability to bring people together in the Waterloo region, which is a vital link for a university in the 21st-century,” added Schmitt.