Innovative Design

Teeple Architects

Toronto based Teeple Architects Inc. is known for innovative design. “Finding an inventive solution” to every challenge is “the absolute essence” of the firm, says President/CEO Stephen Teeple.

Since Mr. Teeple founded the company in 1989, Teeple Architects has been widely recognized for its fresh, out of the box, approach. The firm has earned six Governor General’s Medals in Architecture (Canada’s top architectural award) and has been regularly recognized by the Canadian design community with awards from the Ontario Association of Architects, the Canadian Architect Award of Excellence, the Design Exchange, and various municipal governments.

The team’s innovative approach is seen throughout the company’s diverse portfolio, which includes a broad range of institutional, commercial and residential projects, from recreational centres, museums, and libraries to public schools, university buildings and high-rise condominiums. The team looks at each project, “in a fresh light,” in order to create a solution that meets the specific – and often unique – needs of the site. Many firms, Mr. Teeple points out, approach every project from a similar angle, producing similar and predictable results across multiple projects. “Most firms have a certain way of imagining space, but we seek to invent a way – that is our key strength; we try and understand your problem or your issue and find a fresh solution based solely on what it is you seek.”

The team must deliver more than bold, innovative designs, however. They must also follow through and execute their ideas effectively. “It is key to be able to deliver on all levels,” Mr. Teeple insists. “It takes a high level of service to help execute those ideas. [You have to] be able to deliver on what you have imagined that you would like to do.” Constraints such as budget and project size are all carefully considered to create a plan that is both inventive and realistic. “We pride ourselves in having a rare blend of technical excellence and execution and innovative design,” Mr. Teeple shares.

The Stephen Hawking Centre, an expansion of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario offers a prime example of this balancing act. “They asked us to design the ideal space in which to imagine the beginnings of the universe – a tall order from a very famous scientist,” Mr. Teeple recalls. “We had to invent a space that would create the kind of interactions he sought – how you execute that and how you bring it to fruition also requires a lot of innovation in terms of how you make the building itself. It works on both levels.” The team managed to hit the nail on the head. “He [Stephen Hawking] thinks we got it right.”

The design strategy focused on creating ideal spaces for research as well as quiet spaces for contemplative thought, balanced with spaces designed to facilitate interaction. Furthermore, the expansion, which doubled the size of the building, had to be contiguous with the existing facility in order to function as a singular whole. The end result includes central pods of research with visual links to one another and interaction areas at half levels between floors. Eye-catching zinc panels and gold-coloured glass on the exterior complement and contrast with the existing building.

The Silver LEED rated building has been recognized with an Illuminating Engineering Society of North America Award, Architizer A+ Awards – Special Mention, AZ Awards Finalist, OAA Design Excellence Award, Ontario Concrete Award, and Metal Construction Magazine Award.

Teeple Architects also maintains a strong focus on sustainability. “We believe that the ramifications of sustainable practice reach beyond the sphere of good practice to inform the conceptual essence of each work of architecture,” the company explains. “We see sustainable design as a provocation for rethinking the art of architecture.” As a result, environmentally conscious design is now an “integral consideration in the formulation of architectural ideas and in the spatial experience embodied in each completed project.”

60 Richmond East Housing Development showcases the firm’s full range of expertise. “It is a LEED Gold, highly sustainable, highly energy efficient [building], but also an urban sculpture,” Mr. Teeple explains. The urban in-fill project cleverly integrates sustainability and innovative design, using interlocking and contrasting volumes and voids to create a visually arresting composition that dominates the streetscape. One of Toronto’s largest social housing renewal projects, 60 Richmond East houses hospitality industry workers and their families who were displaced due to the redevelopment of Regent Park. The complex features a resident-run restaurant and training kitchen to give residents supplementary income and additional experience. A community garden on the sixth floor terrace provides produce for the restaurant while using organic kitchen waste as compost and rainwater for irrigation. When all of the building’s elements are combined, they come together to create a self-sustaining “urban permaculture.”

60 Richmond East’s innovative urban design earned a coveted Governor General’s Medal for Architecture this year, as well as an AZ People’s Choice Award, ArchDaily 2010 Building of the Year Award, PUG People’s Choice Award, Toronto Urban Design Award – Award of Excellence, OAA Design Excellence Award, Sustainable Architecture & Building Award, Design Exchange Gold Standing, and Canadian Architect Award of Excellence.

The Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum is another Teeple Architect project currently receiving a lot of press. In fact, the memorable design earned the building a spot on Azure Magazine’s Top 10 Projects to Follow in 2014, which names the year’s ten most noteworthy projects around the world. The team had to pack a lot of punch into a relatively small space – with a relatively small budget – in order to draw visitors to the rural town of Wembley, Alberta, which has a population of only 1,400. “It is exactly the kind of project we do well on,” Mr. Teeple says. “It has a tight budget, it has challenges. And, to draw people to it, it’s got to be interesting – it has got to engage you at every level.”

The museum is located near the famous Pipestone Creek Dinosaur Bonebed and is designed to tell the story of this paleontological treasure. Visitors wind through the discovery of the bonebed and the paleontological process of reconstructing dinosaurs, as well as experiencing this prehistoric time. “You descend below the bonebed back into the time of the dinosaurs – there is a whole narrative based on the discovery,” Mr. Teeple says. A re-erected skeleton of the native Pachyrhinosaurus Lakustai dinosaur greets visitors at the museum entrance. Locally sourced timber and perforated acoustic wood finishes make the sustainable building both warm and dramatic.

Teeple Architects is also helping to revive Toronto’s Alexandra Park. The firm is kicking off the revitalization efforts with two midrise residential condominiums, Block 11 and Block 13, both of which showcase Teeple Architects’ fresh, whimsical, style. The dramatic, geometric design features square-framed balconies that protrude at unexpected intervals. Block 11 gradually rises from the low-rise structures on Queen Street West like a growing hillside, until it meets the taller buildings to the north. Block 13 twists in response to the context in order to take advantage of surrounding views. The buildings are imagined as a “connective tissue,” unifying a neighborhood that has long been subject to disparate building forms. The project serves as a bold statement to the community, announcing Alexandra Park’s revitalization and confirming that Toronto is ready for creative expression in its built environment.

Teeple Architects is eager to continue bringing creative expression into the built environment, both in Toronto and beyond. “We will continue to seek out design opportunities at all scales, even the very small scale,” Mr. Teeple insists. In fact, the team is ready to take on virtually any project in which they can use a bold, fresh approach to meet the needs of the client and the space. “It doesn’t matter what it is; we are not pretentious about what we do. We work in any situation, no matter how difficult, to achieve the best result that we can.”

For more information about Teeple Architects

June 22, 2018, 6:38 PM EDT

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