Buyer’s Remorse

Last week I was asked a simple question: What is your favourite building in the Region of Waterloo? Not so simple a question for someone who spends his life designing and constructing buildings, who has been trained to look at buildings with a critical eye, and who can never be satisfied with just picking one of anything. Nevertheless I took up the challenge willingly and was surprised at how easily an answer came to me. Last week I didn’t hesitate. I didn’t over think my decision. I didn’t second-guess myself. Last week I trusted my instincts.

This week, however, is a new week, and I am experiencing a touch of buyer’s remorse. Having narrowed the field to one, I am beginning to think about all the other buildings that could easily have born the title of favourite. But, instead of returning my purchase for a refund, this week, I would like to expand the parameters of the challenge, and add three buildings that, in my mind, deserve honourable mention:

  • The Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, located on Caroline Street in uptown Waterloo, designed by acclaimed west coast firm Patkau Architects;
  • The original addition to Burt C. Matthew’s Hall, now the Lyle S. Hallman Institute for Health Promotion, located at the North end of the University of Waterloo’s main campus, designed by Teeple Architects; and
  • The Cambridge Library and Galleries’ Preston branch, also by Teeple Architects.

Each of these buildings shares similar characteristics to one another, and to my choice of last week. Their architecture is influenced by, if not born out of their surrounding context. They share a common palette of materials: of concrete, brick, and stained wood. They are all of a human scale immediately relatable to the pedestrian. Additionally, each has created or engages with an exterior space. In the case of the above three, that exterior space is a public one.

But, unlike my choice of last week, they are each public facilities that can be viewed from the street, visited, circumnavigated and explored. These are great buildings, so I suggest that you do just that.

Guest Blogger Matthew Muller

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