These days, road-tripping offers a way to enjoy sightseeing again. Thanks to Canada’s wealth of architectural talent, there are standout structures from coast to coast to left the spirit and bring beauty back into the everyday.

During the global pandemic, countless industries have been impacted by the restrictions and protocols aimed at keeping the world’s citizens safe. Perhaps, no other sector has been hit as hard as travel. From business trips to family visits and luxury vacations, travel has been restricted more than ever with closed borders and flight cancellations —keeping us all closer to home. As the cold temperatures begin to break, now is the moment to step outside, hit the road and marvel at the wonders of design —in our own Canadian backyard.


Kootenay Bay, BC | Patkau Architects

The Yasodhara Ashram’s Temple of Light, a yoga retreat and study centre, designed by Vancouver-based Patkau Architects, is made for tranquillity. Completed in 2017, three years after the previous temple was destroyed by fire, the refracted-dome structure — which mimics an unfolding lotus flower — is a symbol for “peace, love and unity.” Erected in B.C.’s interior, an hour from Nelson city, the building reuses the site’s original foundation and incorporates recycled materials to honour the environment and reinforce the ashram’s commitment of sustainability to the planet and the people.


North York, ON | ZAS Architects + Interiors

Situated on the York University campus, an institution which has always been committed to innovative design, the BergeronCentre was designed to look both like a rock rooted in the landscape and a cloud with multiple permutations and the ability to be anything the mind can imagine— ideal for an academic hub. The façade of glass and aluminum panels stand out against the university’s existing buildings and seem ever-changing as they reflect the life and sky around it. This innovative thinking continues inside where, instead of traditional lecture halls, there are multiples unlit social spaces and open layouts that promote a more interactive learning environment between teachers and students. Photo: Doublespace Photography.


Seine River Village, ON |Cohlmeyer Architecture

West of Thunder Bay, over-looking Wild Potato Lake, sits the Seine River First Nations 7,500-square-foot cultural centre. Completed in 2021, it functions as office space, craft-ing rooms, ceremonial venue and community hall. Designed to honour Indigenous craft and the natural surroundings, the materials used to build the centre are repurposed from an earlier structure that was never completed. Cultural references abound in the interiors — a highlight that includes a floor pattern that mimics traditional woven baskets and, in the ceremonial space, a floor composed of packed earth mixed in with medicinal plants. Form and function create a space where community can come together for generations. 


Sheshatshiu, NL | Woodford Architecture

Set against the wind-blown landscape and great northern skies in Sheshatshiu, Newfoundland and Labrador, Our Lady of the Snows combines the past (Moravian church design and functional Innu and First Nation’s influences) and the future (a meeting place of harmonious religion and community) to meet the present (a contemporary “extension” built by local tradespeople and designed by Newfoundlanders Chris Woodford and Taryn Sheppard). The new build includes a large covered outdoor space ideal for community gatherings and celebrations and a view to the Mealy Mountains. 


Montreal, QC | Menkès Shooner Letourneaux Architectes

Located in Montreal’s Griffintown is the newest addition to the city’s architectural landscape. Comprised of an indoor year-round park, student residences and a space for events and exhibitions, the cantilevered spaces extend to the exterior garden, joining industrial and natural elements. The atrium hearkens to the forests of Quebec with its wooden canopy and rock-shaped seating options. The building’s design was inspired by an icehouse that once stood on that same site, the countless windows reminiscent of the ice itself, creating an openness to student life inside. 


Dehcho, NWT | Taylor Architecture Group

An hour outside of Fort Liard in the Northwest Territories, just as you cross the BC/NWT border on Highway 7, is the Liard Highway Welcome Kiosk designed by the Taylor ArchitectureGroup in Yellowknife and completed in 2020. The stone and steel materials create an environmentally integrated building that requires minimal upkeep despite the region’s long, harsh winters. The kiosk offers maps and information about the area, as well as a restroom for individuals headed to the Great White North. 


Waterloo, QC | Architecture Microclimat

In Quebec’s Eastern Townships, an hour from Montreal, is the small town of Waterloo in the region of La Haute-Yamaska. The community of 4,000 boasts an architectural gem built in 2015 and now a local gathering place. La Taule Athletic Training Centre offers expansive, welcoming interior spaces featuring red cedar, cherry wood and steel. Large glass windows and doors blur the lines between nature outside and indoors. 


Whitehorse, YT | Kobayashi + Zedda Architects

A trip to the northeast corner of the Yukon College campus brings visitors, students and faculty to the four-year-old Centre for Northern Innovation in Mining, a structure worthy of the majesty of the North. Designed to offer ultimate functionality and environmental efficiency, the building is comprised of a training centre and the“Shop” (a hangar-like space used to maintain heavy equipment and train students in carpentry and welding). The use of solar panels and metal cladding, as well as the colour palette (white, black and yellow), allows the building to fit seamlessly into the landscape and big blue sky. Photo: Andrew Latreill


Saskatoon, SK | KPMB Architects

Built on Treaty 6 Territory and the homeland of the Métis, this art museum opened its doors in 2017 and has been welcoming artists and patrons ever since. It was designed by legendary architect and KPMB founding partner Bruce Kuwabara and is made up of four cantilevered structures — parallel to the South Saskatchewan River in the south, and 2nd Avenue to the east. For a continuous flow, it’s integrated into the riverwalk with entrances at both ends of the building. Copper-hued metal screening on the exterior was inspired by the city’s historic Bessborough Hotel. 


Calgary, AB | 5468796 architecture

A small structure that packs big impact, this community initiative designed by Winnipeg-based architects 5468796 started as a plan for garden-tool storage and became an architectural landmark in the up-and-coming Calgary neighbourhood of East Village. Stretched metal mesh wraps the three-pronged utility building constructed out of shipping containers. The exterior hexagon honeycomb waves soften the industrial materials and, as the shed reaches skyward, it works its way into the surroundings as though it always belonged. Photo: 5468796 Architecture


This article originally appeared in INSIGHT: The Art of Living, Spring 2021 issue, The Leaders Issue. Written by Abi Slone and Megan Richards. 

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