Paul Raff Studio has designed the Biosphere Sustainability Centre in the Thousand Island Region in Ontario, Canada, it is the multi-use cultural facility which will be a powerful catalyst to environmental, social and economic sustainable development.
To partner and leverage natural and human capital to improve environmental, social, cultural and economic outcomes by demonstrating a world leading approach to sustainable regional development with the Centre serving as a key attraction and gateway to the region.
The Frontenac Arch Thousand Islands Biosphere, which includes the “Thousand Islands,” is a UNESCO world heritage site. It also encompasses the Rideau Canal World Heritage Site, another UNESCO designation. Very few places in the world have both natural and cultural UNESCO designations. The region will become known as a vibrant, world-class destination for learning about and experiencing sustainable development based on the region’s unique natural and cultural capital. The Biosphere Sustainability Centre will be at the core of this transformation providing residents, students, and visitors with a gateway to learning about and experiencing the region’s extraordinary environmental, social, and cultural heritage.
A proposed adaptive re-use of an existing abandoned industrial complex into a vibrant new mixed-use community oriented centre including sustainable advocacy, exhibition, and research.
A group of government and non-profit organizations as well as local and community representatives with similar missions and interests got together to explore the benefits of creating a Centre for Sustainability. Several of the organizations needed new administrative and/or special purpose spaces for offices, exhibitions, educational and promotional activities, research, and meetings. They saw the addressing of these needs as an opportunity to have a significant and sustainable positive impact on the economic, cultural, environmental, and social development of this region of Eastern Ontario and beyond.
The abandoned Camcar Textron factory in the old Lowertown district of Gananoque was brought to the table as an early potential site, and the Committee immediately felt that the 11,508m2 brownfield site had great potential as an adaptive re-use development for the Biosphere Sustainability Centre. With its close proximity to the Gananoque Boat Line, which annually attracts 200,000-400,000 visitors to the Thousand Islands, as well a good geographical location to act as a ‘hub’ and ‘springboard’ for the rest of the region, the Lowertown site was selected.
The Biosphere Sustainability Centre includes exhibition and conference facilities, artisan studios, market retail, and office space. The building’s programming is integral to its design, which demonstrates to the public how renewable energy technologies, including earth, water, solar, wind, and biomass, can provide clean heating, cooling, electricity and waste management. Furthermore, the centre will serve as an education resource with a positive long-term impact on planning, living, and working in the region, which is part of a UNESCO world heritage site.
The Centre design includes two green roofs with walk-out gardens, a walk-through “living wall” that cleans and recycles the air, and sculptural sun shades alongside the building. The building and site are designed to interconnect with the waterfront and surrounding neighbourhood.
The Centre’s most striking feature is an “Atmospheric Canopy” that hovers above the building and performs multiple functions: it collects sunlight from solar panels, provides shade, reflects the surrounding landscape, and channels rainwater for collection at the corner of the building, where, in the winter months, it transforms into a spectacular icicle sculpture.
+ Project credits / data
Project: Biosphere Sustainability Centre
Design: Paul Raff Studio
Client: Frontenac Arch Biosphere Consortium
Location: Gananoque, Canada
Site: 11,508 m2
Area: 13,794 m2
Program: Sustainable advocacy, Exhibition, research, community center