Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Campus 54 in Montreal, Canada by Pelletier de Fontenay
September 18th, 2012 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: HUBERT PELLETIER
In a context where conceiving an office building too often means an obsessive pursuit of space optimization, the Campus 54 project is surprisingly rich in program and intentions. Typical office buildings, especially when located on the outskirts of the city, largely fail to generate life and activity outside of the office space per se. This obsession with efficiency leaves a large part of the office life unaddressed. The ambition of this project was to create a setting where spaces for leisure, stimulation, relaxation, health, nature and ad hoc encounters would seamlessly blend into the workspaces.
At the heart of this project is the notion of the campus. Planned as a multi-tenant office complex for over 4000 employees, the first challenge was to keep an intimate, personal feeling within such a large building. The strategy was to use the scale of the project as an opportunity to create the complexity and variety desired. A campus is in a way the microcosm of a town with its buildings, streets, green areas, work and leisure spaces, services, circulations and infrastructure. Campus 54 does exactly that, defining a new typology of office building aimed towards quality work life as a means to achieve productivity and sustainability. The project is thus conceived as an integral part of the city rather than a monofunctional mega-block.
The project is planned in two phases, each of which is broken into a cluster of 3 smaller interconnected buildings. Each of these smaller buildings has roughly the same floor area, but their height and scale vary to create a variety of office typologies. The resulting effect emphasizes the individual characters of each space and reinforces the idea of the campus. The height and size variations create a skyline effect with small towers, mid-height blocks, low buildings and ground floor connections all sharing a common architectural expression.
The 3 buildings of each phase are linked together by a three story high, boomerang-shaped atrium, connecting to separate entrances. This generous shared space filled with natural light serves as an entrance lobby to the complex, giving direct access to all the offices and amenities of the campus. At the heart of the complex, the two atriums open onto a crucial feature of the project, a looped ribbon connecting all six buildings from both phases together.
This loop, dubbed as ‘the ring’, is a shared open public space allowing the users of any building to access the amenities of the campus. It is a lively vibrant space, buzzing with activities. This glazed one story space encloses an introverted courtyard, sheltered from the rest of the city by layers of buildings and greenery. This large but intimate garden is the lung of the campus, a visual and physical breath of fresh air. With its highly articulated organization, the project reinterprets the suburban office typology like a classic campus, a collection of smaller interconnected buildings feeding off each other.
Context and urban design components
The proximity to two major highways, the Namur subway station and the Pierre-Elliot Trudeau airport makes the location of the Campus 54 project highly desirable. However, the mix of light industrial and commercial buildings surrounding the site doesn’t offer much variety in terms of urban life and amenities. The spatial condition generated by low buildings and wide streets largely deprived of trees and greenery lacks the liveliness and diversity of a denser urban context. In order to offer this, the building itself needed to integrate this programmatic and formal complexity.
A series of strategies where used to achieve this. The first was to design the complex in an organic way, equally accessible from both contiguous streets, in order to loose the sense of front and back. The curved facades enabled to emphasize the rich spatial and visual continuity of the project. The second strategy was to consider the ground floor as the extension of the public space, both programmatically and spatially. The numerous common functions and amenities of the project, to be used by workers and visitors alike, were placed on the ground floor along both the perimeter of the building and a public walkway passing across the entire project, in a snake like way. This double and triple height space containing cafeterias, restaurants, conference rooms, multifunctional spaces, a business center, a daycare, a gym and a health center, is the core of the project. It is almost inevitable to pass through this public area in order to access the office floors above.
Integration of sustainable design
The complex aims for a LEED gold certification. A large array of strategies, both passive and active, have been integrated to the project to achieve this goal. First, a careful proportioning and placement of the buildings was made in order to optimize access to daylight throughout the day. The skin of the building is composed of vertical aluminum fins serving both as mullions and louvers, helping mitigate the effects of large amounts of glazing. The depth of the louvers is determined according to the sun path and specific programmatic needs. The fins are generally deeper along the south oriented façades and less deep along the north oriented ones. Operable windows are placed regularly in open areas throughout the building, allowing to override mechanical ventilation during periods between winter and summer months.
In order to allow a large ground area for landscaping, the built program is locally concentrated into higher buildings. The ground occupancy ratio is therefore brought down to 42%, well under the 60% maximum stipulated by the by-laws. This strategy gave the opportunity to integrate a large green belt surrounding the complex, acting as a protective buffer gently sheltering the lower double height floors from the sun and surrounding noises, while also offering extensive greenery to an urban setting in dire need of it. The green belt continues on the roofs where both extensive and intensive planted areas are used to reduce heating and cooling as well as to offer another level of accessible public space.
Innovation in addressing program
The client’s ambition was to create a “better than home environment, where workers would do more than just work”. To achieve this, we looked at mixed planning and typological innovation to find a balance between individual and collective needs. By splitting up the typical mega-block into smaller separate buildings, the project achieves its primary goal, creating a sense of intimacy and individuality. By having three different buildings in each phase, we were able to offer multiple types of office spaces for a wide range of potential tenants, enabling the social diversity needed to create a true mixed use complex. We called this “flexible rentability”, where numerous layout options were offered, from large one story open floor concepts, to smaller more divided floor plates, all of which could potentially be combined side by side and one on top of the other.
But the true innovation comes from the formal system around which the campus is developed. In line with the concept of fragmentation, the geometric system developed for the project consists entirely of irregular five-sided polygons. Seen from outside, the curved filet effect smoothing each corner of the complex gave a sense of unity and continuity to the complex. It transformed the crystalline expression into a dynamic cellular and organic language. Experienced from the nearby elevated highway, the façade composition transforms itself as we move past it due to shifting parallax and angled faces. Additionally the buildings are intentionally misaligned so as to reduce vis-à-vis conditions and maximize daylight and views from inside the workspaces. This in turn created intricacy and defined specific crevices that served as entrances to the campus.
Many of the buildings technical strategies are motivated by notions of flexibility and long-term sustainability. Due to the non-standard pentagon shape of the buildings, a radial structural system is used allowing efficient and versatile layouts organized around concentric structural bays. This structural grid acts as an organizational tool from the basement parking all the way up to the office floors, cores, courtyards and skylights. The construction itself is a concrete post and slab structure with bays up to 10m x 10m in size. A versatile raised floor system is used throughout the complex to help distribute mechanical and electrical needs efficiently while offering maximum flexibility especially in the fast changing corporate world.
The façade construction is a hybrid system made up of both curtain wall and traditional window wall, reducing cost while still giving the impression of a homogenous skin. The entire exterior shell of the complex is built in glass and anodised aluminum. The vertical expression of the exterior skin partially continues on the interior faces of each building inside the lobbies but in the form of wood cladding. As a whole, the interiors are kept quite bare, using mostly wood, glass, apparent concrete and a variety of floor coverings adjusted to the needs of the tenants.
Contact Pelletier de Fontenay Architects
One Response to “Campus 54 in Montreal, Canada by Pelletier de Fontenay”