ZAS is a Canada based architecture firm with offices in Toronto and Vancouver to handle domestic projects and an office in Dubai to handle international projects. The quarter-century-old firm has amassed a sizable number of projects under a variety of different societal use cases, in its portfolio. 

Rethinking The Future Awards 2022

Implementing overlapping sets of highly varied programming, through effective planning and circulation strategies is where the practice shines at its best. Most resultant projects, therefore, manage to achieve the rare feat of attaining program and user hierarchy, while adhering to planning principles built on equity; within both the users and the surrounding context. 

Below is the list of 15 Projects by ZAS Architects + Interiors Inc.:

1. Gore Meadows Community Centre & Library

Brampton, ON, Canada

The Gore Meadows Community Centre and Library are often recognized by this unique facade and exterior design which are almost sculptural in their implementation. The buffer between the building face and the street is covered by a large pergola which by design, is reminiscent of linearly planted bands of vegetation that surround the area. 

Overlooking the landscape of the complex is a slightly staggered curved glass pane facade that sweeps along the length of the building. The reflections off of which are meant to be conceived as dynamic, windswept fields of harvest, much like the fields that surround the site.

While programmed to accommodate community-building activities, the design also manages to achieve a particularly rare feat. One of standing out, while making a concerted effort to blend into its landscape. The result is memorable, without being jarring.   

Gore Meadows Community Centre & Library - Sheet1
The large pergola is reminiscent of the surrounding linearly planted bands of vegetation. ©www.zasa.com
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The staggered glass facade reflects what is conceived as wind-swept fields of harvest. ©www.zasa.com
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Seating areas overlook the reflected vegetation. ©www.zasa.com

2. Digital Media Lab, University of Waterloo – Stratford Campus

Stratford, ON, Canada

The Digital Media Lab is part of the University of Waterloo, Stratford campus. In an effort to respond to the railway and industrial areas around the brownfield site it sits on; the building adopts an industrial aesthetic. The clean but robust glass facade exterior was meant to create a backdrop for the rest of the buildings on the campus. 

The interiors of the facility are anchored by a three-storey high event space. The massive volume of which plays host to the students entering the building from the street outside. Close to the entrance, a vast digital screen monolith spans the full height of the event space, in a bid to create a dynamic showcase of the Digital Media work done by the students. 

An open-access staircase connects the event room with the overlooking collaborative spaces on the two floors above, which in-turn connect classrooms and project rooms. What is observed, therefore, is a tiered hierarchy in the function and specialization of the programs, encouraging focused research and work on one end and collaborative efforts across teams on the other.

Digital Media Lab, University of Waterloo – Stratford Campus - Sheet1
A robust exterior makes up the facade of the building. ©www.zasa.com
Digital Media Lab, University of Waterloo – Stratford Campus - Sheet2
A triple height event space is overlooked by collaborative spaces. ©www.zasa.com
Digital Media Lab, University of Waterloo – Stratford Campus - Sheet2
Collaborative spaces abutt classrooms to encourage student interaction.  ©www.zasa.com

3. Edithvale Community Centre

Toronto, ON, Canada

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The Edithvale Community Centre is a brilliant example of how a well thought out, program centric focal point can help engage local communities. The building is carefully drawn out to be open, multifunctional, and engaging around its double-height entrance while transitioning to a more program centric planning as one proceeds further into it. 

Increasing program density interestingly does not lead to reduced transparency due to the generous use of transparent glass partitions. Artrooms are especially characterized by high ceilings and abundant natural light. It also includes various activity-centric amenities like gyms, exercise rooms, aerobics studios, preschool centers, and lounges; in an effort to foster community participation.

Edithvale Community Centre - Sheet1
An L-shaped layout allows for street interaction and carves out an adjoining landscape. ©www.zasa.com
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Internal programs like art galleries overlook the double height lobby.
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A double height entrance greets patrons. © www.zasa.com

4. Vaughan Civic Centre and Public Resource Library

Vaughan, ON, Canada

The Vaughan Civic Centre and Public Resource Library is identified by their perforated glass building skin. More importantly, though, it is a rare, successful modern implementation of the old guard; the courtyard system. Instead of negating system benefits by increasing building height like mainstream architecture, the project instead makes use of its facade and landscaping to further bolster the system in a welcome exception. 

The perforated, incline plane glass facade overlooks the exterior landscape while doubling as a transparency control. The clear glass internal facade creates a dialogue with the courtyard’s landscape to create a seamless internal transition. An overarching entrance takes visitors through the multistoried commercial and retail area and into the library. 

The facility also houses program centric functions such as meeting rooms, collaboration spaces, study halls, and children’s play areas.

Vaughan Civic Centre and Public Resource Library - Sheet1
The perforated glass facade faces outward into the landscape. ©www.zasa.com
Vaughan Civic Centre and Public Resource Library - Sheet2
The building faces inward into the courtyard landscape. ©www.zasa.com
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Reading spaces benefit from abundant natural light. ©www.zasa.com

5. Toronto and Region Conservation Authority Headquarters (TRCA)

Toronto, ON

The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority aid conservation and responsible use of Ontario’s natural resources by delivering resource management programs at the local level. In this effort, the TRCA’s proposed headquarters building attempts to lead from the front. 

The building is designed using low carbon footprint materials like timber for its structural frame and further plans to boost operating efficiency by using renewable energy and effective wastewater management. The ultimate intent of the project is to achieve a carbon-neutral position in the near future. Ecological merits aside, the building is also designed to respond to its ravine context, that it sits in, seamlessly.

Toronto and Region Conservation Authority Headquarters (TRCA) - Sheet1
The proposed building blends seamlessly with a ravine context.  ©www.zasa.com
Toronto and Region Conservation Authority Headquarters (TRCA) - Sheet2
Timber frame construction aims to bring down the embodied energy.  ©www.zasa.com
Toronto and Region Conservation Authority Headquarters (TRCA) - Sheet3
The building intends to achieve a carbon neutral position in the near future. ©www.zasa.com

6. Gyptech Head Office

Burlington, ON, Canada

The Gyptech Head Office combines a traditional, but context-sensitive facade design, with a well, thought-out interior layout. Earthen materials like stone, wood, and glass make up a frontage and flow gently along the natural contour of the site, significant in its own right, but blending in with the landscape at large. 

A directional planning layout draws the more enclosed, private programs, such as meeting rooms, towards the center of the footprint; while more open, collaborative workspaces and eating areas build the perimeter. Natural light floods the interiors as a result, with frame slits acting as transparency controls on the facade.

Gyptech Head Office - Sheet1
Horizontal louvers act as transparency controls for interior lighting.  ©www.zasa.com
Gyptech Head Office - Sheet2
Collaborative work spaces build up the perimeter maintaining high levels of light penetration. ©www.zasa.com
Gyptech Head Office - Sheet3
Private work spaces, pulled towards the center draw ample natural light without hindering the flow of light into other spaces. ©www.zasa.com

7. South Dartmouth Elementary School

Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada

The South Dartmouth Elementary School was an exercise in reimagining and rebuilding two existing schools into one shared facility between the students and the local community. The school, in order to accommodate its expensive program requirements, needed to be big. 

Therefore, it was broken down to a relatable scale, for the young students, by segmenting git into 17 compact learning clusters. Community use after hours was made possible by clustering all school amenities together to make part lockoffs possible. 

Allowing the rest of the areas to remain open for use. The landscape too in this regard plays an important role in both acting as outdoor learning spaces and developing a natural dialogue with the surrounding woods. Simple, but impactful in its design and planning, the project manages to achieve seamless integration and sharing across age groups and use cases.

South Dartmouth Elementary School - Sheet1
Buildings are segmented into seventeen compact learning clusters. ©www.zasa.com
South Dartmouth Elementary School - Sheet2
The elementary school adds colour to otherwise gloomy winterlands. ©www.zasa.com
South Dartmouth Elementary School - Sheet3
Innovative classrooms double as community spaces after hours. ©www.zasa.com

8. Thompson Residences

Toronto, ON, Canada

The Thompson Residences are often identified by their unique vertically stepped box facade. In a world of lip-sticking fairly average architecture, the project stands out in earnest because of the motivations behind its design. The two to three-story high staggered blocks manage to achieve interesting hierarchies in interior privacy, which manifests through private balconies and in the staggering breaking of the enormous building facade down to the human scale. 

The human scale is further fostered through restaurants and shops on the stilt level that continue the urban street fabric. The two buildings feature a wide variety of unit sizes, roof-top lap pools, indoor/outdoor bars, and more importantly, high ceilings.

Thompson Residences - Sheet1
A terrace lap pool presents panoramic views of Toronto. ©www.zasa.com
Thompson Residences - Sheet2
Staggered units create hierarchy in interior privacy through private balconies. ©www.zasa.com
Thompson Residences - Sheet3
Building entrance and retail shops continue the urban street fabric. ©www.zasa.com

9. Curtiss Kitchen and Dining Facility, CFB Borden

Borden, ON, Canada

The Curtiss Kitchen and Dining Facility is a brilliant exercise in disguising what is essentially a practically planned, grid layout, rectangular building; into a much more relatable almost sculptural form. Seeing as the building is meant to cater to the students of the Department of National Defence, the grid planning, actually aids in increasing efficiency more so than other projects. Especially given the large number of users involved. 

The tree-like columns, however, are what makes the vast building interiors more relatable to the human; both in terms of its scale and in terms of emotional perception after the hard days work the students go through. The project also plays a key role, with its biomimicry and complete transparency, in the much-awaited departure from the robust, power consolidating colonial-style architecture of the past.

 

Curtiss Kitchen and Dining Facility, CFB Borden - Sheet1
Image 25 – Tree-like columns arch over the numerous seating spaces, interconnecting to form arches. ©www.zasa.com
Curtiss Kitchen and Dining Facility, CFB Borden - Sheet2
Image 27 – Complete transparency and biomimicry marks the end of the colonial style architecture of the past. ©www.zasa.com
Curtiss Kitchen and Dining Facility, CFB Borden - Sheet3
A vast cooking area, nestled within the building is the heart of the operation. ©www.zasa.com

10. Vellore Village Library

Vaughan, ON, Canada

Part of a joint-use complex consisting of a community center and a secondary school, the Vellore Village Library stands out for its effectively implemented climate response strategies. The building diverts cold northwest winds during winter while shielding an adjacent skatepark that lies in its wake. Large east facing decks double as reading spaces during the summer. 

A flowing glass facade wraps around the periphery, which floods the interiors with natural light from the east. The top of the building is, in turn, draped with a roof, with almost a cloth-like consistency in its form; the lowest portion of which sits directly above the main reading areas. The library is therefore perceived as a fluid space, catering to a variety of local communities and students.

Vellore Village Library - Sheet1
Reading area under the flowing roof. ©www.zasa.com
Vellore Village Library - Sheet2
A view of the interiors with the roof removed. ©www.zasa.com
Vellore Village Library - Sheet3
The skatepark (front) benefits from the building behind, deflecting the cold wind away from it. ©www.zasa.com

11. Port Credit Arena

Mississauga, ON, Canada

The Port Credit Arena project is an ideal example of both expanding as well as rejuvenating an iconic heritage. Which in this case is the attached barrel-shaped building now called the Memorial Arena. Public participation and a painstaking design process resulted in the new building connecting with the concourse of the old building, with an additional lower level public lobby, while taking advantage of the sloping nature of the site. 

Hence, even while adding vast amounts of space for non-recreational activities, the building manages to remain subdued in the context of the vast barrel of the old. The glass facade building’s orientation and approach also manage to create an interesting second dialogue with the opposite landscape. The project, therefore, comes across as more of a seamless augmentation than a mere addition.

Port Credit Arena - Sheet1
The new extension building and the restored barrel shaped memorial building (back). © www.zasa.com
Port Credit Arena - Sheet2
Renovated interior of the memorial building. © www.zasa.com
Port Credit Arena - Sheet3
Entrance to the old (now memorial) building. © www.zasa.com

12. Painswick Branch Library

Barrie, ON, Canada

The Painswick Branch Library’s effective urban design response was necessitated by its location on a suburban greenfield between a residential and commercial area. At the forefront of this effort is a large, transparent, multi-programmed lobby, which plays host to a plethora of community gatherings. 

Accessed readily from the street-front, the lobby remains open after hours allowing it to act as a natural activity buffer during closing hours. It in turn opens into the main library, which centers around a living room-style reading space. Bookshelf sets arranged linearly against the glass facade, make up the perimeter; acting doubly as transparency controls.

Painswick Branch Library - Sheet1
The lobby (right) cements a relationship between the landscape and the street. © www.zasa.com
Painswick Branch Library - Sheet2
The lobby doubles as a community participation space. © www.zasa.com
Painswick Branch Library - Sheet
A central living room anchors the library. © www.zasa.com

13. Toronto Montessori School, Elgin Mills Campus

Richmond Hill, ON, Canada

The Toronto Montessori School project entails a two-storey building expansion to the existing campus to accommodate grade 7 to 12 students. The building is anchored in its programming by a Student Commons area, that acknowledges the importance of student friendships at this age. In its design, the building is anchored by its library, which is nestled within a sweeping, curved facade. 

The glass facade further creates horizontal slits on the inside to act as transparency controls in the light that falls on the almost quadrant-like library space. The building decidedly follows an almost wing-like segmented master planning, accounting for possible future expansion as the school grows in a student capacity.

Toronto Montessori School, Elgin Mills Campus - Sheet1
The building splits in two wings with the prominent curved library on the right. © www.zasa.com
Toronto Montessori School, Elgin Mills Campus - Sheet2
The quadrant shaped library anchors the building design. ©www.zasa.com
Toronto Montessori School, Elgin Mills Campus - Sheet3
An open access stairway provides access to the upper floor. ©www.zasa.com

14. Beaty Branch Library- Milton

Milton, ON, Canada

A textbook exercise in site response, the modest Beaty Branch Library is anchored by design to take advantage of existing site constraints to the fullest. The building spans lengthwise along a pre-existing, naturalized stormwater green belt. The overlooking full height glass windows make for sweeping views across the dynamic landscape while letting in vast amounts of natural light into the library. 

Reading spaces that start from a living room style layout, slowly morph into denser, program-specific areas as one moves through the street-facing entrance, deeper into the building. The open reading spaces at the entrance create a dialogue with the adjoining street which, while being inviting, also plays a role in reaffirming a community-focused design narrative. 

Beaty Branch Library- Milton - Sheet1
Glass windows overlook the landscape while letting in light for reading. ©www.zasa.com
Beaty Branch Library- Milton - Sheet2
The building sweeps along the naturalised green belt. © www.zasa.com
Beaty Branch Library- Milton - Sheet3
Living rooms like reading spaces overlook the street and greet patrons at the entrance. © www.zasa.com

15. University of Toronto Scarborough Campus – IC2

Scarborough, Toronto

The new Instructional center building (IC2) for the University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus, is meant to be a classroom inventory expansion to the existing campus. Beneath its simple, but functional rectangular glass facade, the building houses what is essentially a brilliant exercise in space planning. 

With a clear focus on the students, the ground floor is occupied entirely by classrooms, cafes, and collaborative areas. The intended atmosphere of collaborative learning is further fostered by a landscape that is laid out such that it creates an extension of the programs, allowing for organic spillover spaces, while also accommodating for carefully planned circulation pathways that cut across it. 

Programs that require more controlled spaces, such as research and office areas for UTSC’s Computer and Mathematical Sciences Department occupy the floor above. With the lowest day to day student involvement, the Student Affairs offices and program areas are placed on the topmost floor. The building, therefore, consolidates increasingly student involved areas towards the lower floors, where a meticulously planned landscape integrates itself to create a functional backdrop beyond the boundaries of the building it upholds. 

University of Toronto Scarborough Campus - IC2 - Sheet1
High density student areas seamlessly integrated with the landscape. ©www.zasa.com
University of Toronto Scarborough Campus - IC2 - Sheet2
Spill-over spaces outside classrooms for collaborations and refreshments. © www.zasa.com
University of Toronto Scarborough Campus - IC2 - Sheet3
An indoor auditorium nestled within the facility. © www.zasa.com

 

Author

An architect that is in pursuit of achieving a responsive architecture user-interface by studying interdependent disciplines. A liberal, an academician, and a rarely funny person who believes that engaging in regular discourse can benefit today's architecture.

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