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Italian architecture students win local design competition

Architecture students from around the world have contributed ideas to what the proposed Northern Ontario School of Architecture (NOSOA) could look like during a recent competition organized by the proponents.
Blaine Nicholls, chair of the Northern Ontario School of Architecture committee, showed off the winning ideas design from Italian architecture students from Rome Wednesday at the Sudbury Theatre Centre. The students won $5,000 for producing a design that Douglas Cardinal, one of the jury, said worked with nature and the sun and would help develop the downtown core of the city. Photo by Bill Bradley.

Architecture students from around the world have contributed ideas to what the proposed Northern Ontario School of Architecture (NOSOA) could look like during a recent competition organized by the proponents.

Mayor John Rodriguez, at a press conference at the Sudbury Theatre Centre Wednesday, emphasized the importance of the the proposed school, saying it would revolutionize the downtown core of the city.

“(After this building is erected) we will never be the same (in the downtown). We will not go back to the way we were. We want it to be the centre of our city,” said Rodriguez.

Canadian architects Douglas Cardinal and University of Montreal architecture professor Anne Cormier announced the winners of the conceptual ideas contest as being from Rome, Italy.

Danielle Rocchio and Fernando Mazza, students at the Focolta di Architettura Valle Giulia Sapienza, in Rome Italy, won a $5,000 prize for their innovative ideas design for the school, which is to be sited in the downtown area. Fifty five submission were received from architecture students and recent graduates from around the world, as far away as India and Argentina.

Second place went to Dylan Saver and Joe Smith, recent graduates from the Yale School of Architecture, New Haven Connecticut. Graduating students Michal Blois, Sean McLean and Jason Fung from Ryerson University in Toronto grabbed third place. There were also a number of honourable mentions from student teams from Argentina, Moscow and Dalhousie University in Halifax.

Judging was conducted on the creativity of the submissions, the potential to stimulate discussion about what a school of architecture should look like and how it could be integrated into the downtown, said a release.

“The jurors liked this particular (Italian) design but there are interesting solutions in the other designs as well. This may be the site selected but it remains to be seen,” said Blaine Nicholls, retired architect and chair of the Northern School of Architecture committee.

The Rome students selected a site just north of the railway tracks. The competition was held not for the final architectural design but to solicit some ideas that could influence the final design for the school.

Cardinal, a member of the expert panel that judged the entries, praised the design for its theme of working with nature and contributing to a strong downtown.

“The landscaping and the building all work with nature. More than any other scheme it addresses the most important feature which is the sun. It opens towards the sun in a very organic and sensitive way,” said Cardinal.

The winning design is a green building concept, he emphasized, involving passive solar design concepts.

“If you look at the building it has an east west axis. The orientation of the building opens to the south so you have the sun angle coming in,” he added.

“It is so important in the northern climate to orient the building towards the sun. After all that is the most important source of energy we have and we ignore it.”

Cardinal said there was energy saving designs for the north side of the building as well.

“The backside (of the structure)is more enclosed from the north wind. These kinds of considerations most people forget about,” he added.

“All these considerations of passive solar, orientation, are so important because we waste so much energy by not considering these fundamental issues. We can design buildings with proper (building) envelopes (walls and roofs) that address the sun in a way that can reduce energy substantially.”

Cardinal said his architectural firm has done this kind of design work in the past and in their ongoing work. He referred to the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec as an example of energy efficient design his firm had developed.

Housing can also reflect these concepts, he said.

“In our housing there is no reason why we can not design a net zero house (that uses no off site heating or cooling source). We have the technology to do that. We are wasting so much energy by not designing properly building envelopes.”

The winning ideas design and the second and third place winners and honourable mentions will be set up at Tom Davies Square, said Nicholls.

The architecture school project's business plan has been approved by the Laurentian University board of directors.

Dominic Giroux, president of Laurentian University, will present the business plan to the Ontario government shortly, said Nicholls.

“We hope to have the first class begin in 2011 but based on that schedule they will be in temporary facilities (until the building is finished).”

If the project continues to maintain its schedule it will involve having the building erected by 2013, he noted.

Nicholls said the $10 million contribution from the City of Greater Sudbury (over 10 years) had made a huge difference in interesting federal, provincial and private sector partners.

Rodriguez agreed.

“We put our money where our mouth was.” That is why that why other funders are showing interest, said Rodriguez.

Nicholls also acknowledged the $50,000 contribution made to the school (if it is funded by senior funders) by Downtown Sudbury. He said the group, dedicated to improving the downtown, realized the potential the building, its students and staff would have for the revitalization of the core of the city.