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.
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.
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.
3. Edithvale Community Centre
Toronto, ON, Canada
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.
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.
5. Toronto and Region Conservation Authority Headquarters (TRCA)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
15. University of Toronto Scarborough Campus – IC2
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.