The winning scheme in a design competition, the new Vaughan City Hall is located in the community of Maple within the City of Vaughan. Originally an agricultural area located at the northern edge of Metropolitan Toronto, Vaughan is in the process of making the transition from its rural past to an urban future. Since 1981 the town has grown from approximately 30,000 to 220,000, experiencing unprecedented growth and consequently replacing farmland with housing and big box retail. The intent of the new City Hall is to set a tone for environmentally responsible and civic-minded development in the 21st century.
The design concept is based on the idea of cultivating a civic landscape. The diverse program encompassing 325,000 s.f. is broken down into various components to create a civic campus of low-rise structures that define a public terrain of open and enclosed spaces. The overall program includes the City Hall, a Civic Tower, Chamber of Commerce and a Public Library building – the latter two to be built during future phases. Landscape elements are to include the Civic Square, reflecting pool/skating rink, public gardens and naturalized park. To acknowledge the city’s agricultural heritage, the campus is laid out according to a series of east-west bands that reference the linear pattern of land cultivation that once characterized the region, as well as the larger framework of the concession grid
Formally, the scheme reinterprets civic typologies. The order of buildings is inspired by the clarity of Ontario town planning where City Hall, Civic Square, Market and Cenotaph define an identifiable civic precinct. The concept also draws from the tradition of the European square, or piazza, where architecture is used to define flexible central spaces for meeting, demonstration and celebration.
Recognizing the City’s goal for future flexibility, one of the greatest challenges of the competition was to resolve the requirement for over 900 surface parking spaces which would have directly contradicted the City’s civic vision, consumed parkland, and visibly undermined the environmental statement of the City. The design concept challenged the original requirement, instead proposing a combination of short-term surface parking with substantial underground parking. The solution resulted in providing the necessary civic infrastructure to accommodate the long-term development goals for the site.