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Cunard Street Live/Work/Grow

Mixed-use Development

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This new design studio is constructed on a brownfield site in the North End of Halifax close to the city commons. The architecture embodies the values of the studio—a place for people-driven design. This is done through engaging with the surrounding community, within the material and tectonic palette of the architecture, and through the work culture that the building promotes. The building contains office space, residential units, a courtyard, and a roof garden.

Covid-19 has radically changed work culture. Many of us will return to the studio, some will continue to work from home, but most people desire the flexibility of both worlds. Collaboration, socialization, and serendipity are vital to creativity—something that has been more difficult during the past year with reduced face-to-face encounters. This post-pandemic office is shaped by multiple breakout spaces, private rooms for zoom calls, and gathering spots both indoors and outdoors. Fresh air, daylight, and access to nature are central to the design.

Social, economic, and ecological sustainability are important to the studio’s values. Wanting to study mass timber construction, but unable to pursue it with client-based work, this office has served as a research project exploring glulam and nail-laminated timber floor assemblies within a five-storey wood structure. Such assemblies have been used for more than a century, particularly in large-span warehouses where solid, sturdy floors were required. Timber is a valid substitute for concrete or steel construction and has significantly less embodied carbon. Studies have shown that wood buildings increase occupant attention and productivity while reducing stress levels and fatigue. Wood is a lighter material than steel allowing for a simpler foundation, shorter construction schedule, and a reduced overall impact (sound, construction debris, laydown area) on the construction site and surrounding neighbours. Finally, because wood is a natural material that feels warmer and softer to the touch, it creates a space that helps to reconnect people with nature. The office will serve as an example of the possibilities for future projects and the construction industry in Atlantic Canada.

The studio also strives to be a community ally by growing food on its roof for, and in partnership with, its neighbours. A community art project with local daycares adorns the construction hoarding wall facing the street. Chalkboard paint covers the hoarding boards facing the neighbours. This provides a venue for ‘chalk talk’ to invite and hear opinions from the community on changes in their neighbourhood. A permanent art project will be developed with the community on the wall facing the adjacent Souls Harbour Rescue Mission.

Both standing out and fitting in, this building’s design is a study of the lived relationships between form, function, and the everyday rhythms of the neighbourhood.

TYPE: Mixed-use

LOCATION: Halifax, Nova Scotia

SIZE: 18,385 sqft