November 30, 2005
Source: Dalhousie University:
Dal amphitheatre project in Cheticamp wins national design award
Le Théâtre Petit Cercle, designed and constructed by 27 students and professors in Dalhousie’s Faculty of Architecture and Planning, took the top architecture honour last night at the National Post Design Exchange Awards in Toronto.
The innovative children’s amphitheatre in Cheticamp earned the gold award in the Commercial Architecture category for public and corporate buildings. Criteria included function, aesthetics and economic success.
Professors Ted Cavanagh and Richard Kroeker represented Dalhousie’s team of designer-builders at the gala awards dinner, held on the historic Trading Floor at the Design Exchange (DX), Canada’s design museum. An exhibition showcasing all finalist projects remains on view at DX throughout December.
Runners-up in the category were the Angus Glen Community Centre and Library in Markham, Ontario; the University of Toronto’s Early Learning Centre; and the Art Gallery of Hamilton Renewal, all designed by private architecture firms.
An outstanding example of community-based architecture, the Cape Breton amphitheatre was designed, constructed and paid for in just two weeks during the summer of 2004. It was launched as a performance venue for Le Troisième Congrès Mondiale Acadien, Nova Scotia’s celebration of 400 years of French settlement in Canada.
The Dalhousie team collaborated closely with the local population, drawing on the strong community spirit and sense of place while adapting the design to local building methods and climate issues.
Moored to a playground slide, the theatre playfully engages les suètes, Cheticamp’s notorious brute winds of up to 150 kilometres per hour. Its wooden cribwork walls are perforated and curved to reduce resistance to the wind, and rock ballasts provide further support. The slide anchoring the building is decorated with an Acadian wind sock banner, and children can make a grand sliding entry into the space.
"The thing that’s really strong about it is that the whole community was involved. Once they saw what we were doing, everybody wanted to help in every way they could," says Prof. Cavanagh.
The Dal architecture team held public meetings and brainstorming sessions, and the local Co-op store provided lumber at a fraction of its usual cost. The students, including some on exchange from Germany and Botswana, camped out at the site and scavenged beaches for some building materials while raising $14,000 to pay for the rest.
The project has generated substantial funding toward developing an annual children’s Fine Arts camp at the site, to promote Acadian culture. This second phase is now underway, with a research creation grant of $200,000 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and $100,000 in funding from other sources such as Canada Wood Council. Dalhousie has invited exchange students from Norway, Iceland and Ireland to travel to Cheticamp to assist with the Fine Arts camp.
The project has also earned Profs. Cavanagh, Kroeker and Roger Mullin a Collaborative Practice Award from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, which represents all architecture schools in Canada and the U.S.
About Dalhousie: Dalhousie is a comprehensive, research-intensive university with more than 15,500 students. In The Scientist magazine, it was recently named one of the best non-commercial places to work as a scientific researcher outside the United States.
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Prof. Ted Cavanagh