Just north of Toronto, Vaughan’s UJA Federation Community Complex was designed as a true community centre. More than just offering programs and activities, it connects people of all ages, ability, and social standing by integrating services and increasing visibility.
Designed by Toronto firm Architects+Research+Knowledge (ARK), the three-storey, 33,909-m2 (365,000-sf) facility connects four built masses with a pedestrian path intended to model interior ‘streets.’ This throughway for pedestrians runs from the building’s north to south points as well as from east to west. The facility is mostly glass-clad and the various physical, cultural, or childcare services conducted are visible, creating the feeling of transparency intended by designers.
In order to unite community members, services were combined. For example, fitness was combined with childcare areas, clinical healthcare with swimming facilities, and language classes with art space. This shared services model resulted in a reduction of built infrastructure, decreasing the carbon footprint.
“A shared central plant, fully automated building systems, low-voltage lighting, and highly-efficient building envelope limit energy consumption while increasing building performance,” Guela Solow-Ruda, design partner at ARK told Construction Canada Online. “Hardy, indigenous, low-maintenance planting, integrated stormwater retention, and large areas of permeable landscaping, reduced watering requirements and runoff.”
In addition to providing views within the centre, this element of transparency also provides sights of the surrounding neighbourhood and increases natural daylighting.
The $184-million project was part of a larger campus master plan by the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) Federation in Vaughan. The funds were raised with help of numerous community leaders and donors, as well as the provincial and federal governments. ARK and UJA Federation spent close to a decade planning for the project.
“Drawing from previous projects, the UJA Federation Community Complex knits together a wide range of programs and facilities under one roof,” Solow-Ruda said. “One can go to school, daycare, the pharmacy, or to the doctor; one can exercise, eat, rest, play, dance, paint, sculpt, or people-watch.”
The facility was built in five stages, allowing it to be constructed alongside the increasingly growing community. The groundbreaking was held in 2004 and four years later construction was completed on the central atrium and sporting facilities connected to the adjacent secondary school. In 2012, the conference centre addition and health and wellness centre opened.
The next phase of development is the Performance Box facility, which will bring together performance spaces and workshops.