Nelson Architecture wins WoodWorks award for SMB expansion design

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by Ryan Young, Miner and News, November 27, 2015

 Nelson Architecture Inc. has been awarded for its work on the École Ste Marguerite Bourgeoys’ kindergarten addition.

The Kenora-based boutique firm was presented with the Northern Ontario Excellence Design Award for its galvanizing use of wood at the 15th annual Ontario WoodWorks event in Toronto, Nov. 12.

David Nelson, master architect, was happy to have his firm’s hard work being acknowledged.
“It reinforces our belief that you can do good work anywhere, even in Northwestern Ontario,” Nelson said. “It’s great, we were very pleased about it.”

Judges were drawn to the use of glulam (glued laminated timber) in the 10,000-square-foot addition, according to an article in Northern Ontario Business.

Ste. Marguerite Bourgeoys was originally made from wood in 1970. “The existing school gave us a lot of design clues as to what the new building should be,” Nelson said. “It’s interesting to see 45 years later that wood is seeing a revival in use, similar to the type of revival that happened in the 1970s.”

Nelson and company had to deal with a constrained site as Pope John Pope II is so close. They wanted to place the addition in such a way that would preserve the playground area but also put together a coherent addition in terms of the internal organization of existing school.

As part of the Kenora Catholic District School Board’s hope for the project, Nelson’s use of exposed wood was aimed to form a connection with the children inside to the outside world. “We think of Kenora, certainly historically, as a wood-based culture with the paper mills,” Nelson said. “We’re surrounded by trees and this beautiful natural environment.”

Those with a keen eye may be able to tell that the slope of the new roof is the same as the old one, just reversed. “It’s a little more of a contemporary form but it still acknowledges the existing form,” he said.

In all, the project took a little more than two years from start to completion being ready in time for the school year at the beginning of September 2014.

The Ontario branch of the Canadian Wood Council have honoured Nelson and his staff before back in 2011. Nelson Architecture received a provincial wood advocate award for a portfolio of projects including the new Lake of the Woods Discovery Centre, St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School and the Northern Ontario Sport Fishing Centre in Sioux Narrows.