Canadian Centre for Rural Creativity

Celebrating the region’s rural roots and creative spirit, this highly sustainable creative hub will foster year-round artistic collaboration and community engagement.

Located in Blyth, Ontario, the Sparling Centre will be home to the Canadian Centre for Rural Creativity (CCRC), the first of its kind in Canada, aiming to establish the town of Blyth as a model 21st century rural community and cultural centre. Building upon the rich, creative 50-year history of the Blyth Festival for the performing arts and the strong community spirit of the region, the CCRC is envisioned as a highly sustainable year-round cultural hub to spark creativity and create a draw for the wider region. The 33,000 SF centre will accommodate many different creative disciplines and programs including fashion and textiles arts; studio spaces for music, dance and performance; and a gallery and retail space for local artists to sell their work. An outdoor community garden is planned for further community engagement and to grow some of the fibers used in the creative textiles program.

The building massing was derived from the definition of three main programmatic uses of the facility, each with their own distinct character and materiality. The textile arts division is organized in a long, one-storey volume with an array of slot windows and outdoor space for dying fabrics, clad in reclaimed wood that is suggestive of the threads on a loom. The performing arts theatre and studios comprise a tall volume with adjoining studios, clad in phenolic wood panels and wood screens. The supporting spaces are a series of distinct volumes attached to the primary volumes; they are conceived of as one- and two-storey brick volumes reminiscent of the vernacular brick used in the region.

The arrangement of these volumes was inspired by the geometry and linear nature of the surrounding rural landscape – like the myriad of farmers’ fields bisected by the main road, the primary and supporting spaces are organized around a central two-storey circulation spine with a mezzanine and lofty windows that provide ample natural lighting and ventilation and encouraging chance encounters to enable further creativity and collaboration. Materials and exposed wood post and beam structural members were selected to resonate with the local vernacular of barns and brick buildings – a palette of warm or weathered wood and muted grey brick. The multitude of perimeter and interior windows permit views internally and to the surrounding community and adjacent landscaping, allowing transparency and openness for a central building in the community, and reinforcing the connection to its natural surroundings and rural community.

Targeting LEED Gold, the CCRC is designed to be a model of sustainability for the region. Incorporating many different sustainable features and systems (both passive and active), the CCRC will include a horizontal geothermal energy system, a photovoltaic array supplying roughly 26,000 kWh of electricity per year, cool roof membranes, rainwater harvesting from the flat roofs connected to a greywater system to be used in the dying process, green roofs, and an interior double-height green wall near the entrance. The central circulation spine will include operable clerestory windows balanced with the mechanical systems and a displacement ventilation system, optimizing natural ventilation utilizing stack effect. The extensive clerestory windows at each of the intersecting volumes will allow for natural daylighting throughout, desired for creative activities.

  • SAB Magazine, “The Importance of Biophilic Design: Advancing Our Physical and Mental Well-being”

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