Ex Industria

Design at Riverside/Idea Exchange

Curated by Rick Haldenby | Esther E. Shipman

The title of the exhibition came for the motto of the City of Kitchener: Ex Industria Prospertitas. In fact the cities of Waterloo Region grew from five mills and the strength of the three cities has, from the beginning, been based on their armatures of mills and factories. Ex Industria told the story of the growth of the physical fabric of Waterloo Region industries, first attached to the waterways for power, then connected to the railway lines for supply and transport and finally moved to the periphery and attached to the new road network that developed after the Second World War. The show used historic photographs to portray the epic scale of the factories and their influence on the urban experience. A video produced by graduate students in the School of Architecture captured the current state of these great buildings. 

Ex Industria explored three themes that link the industrial vernacular to contemporary architecture in the Region and beyond: the influence of the huge factories of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries on the development of the modern architecture by the European avant garde; the influence of industrial architecture on the post-modern buildings built in Waterloo Region in the 1980’s and 1990’s; and the widespread reuse of the surviving factories for institutions, housing, and commercial office space for high tech enterprises. 

The exhibit pushed the idea that Waterloo Region is indeed ‘founded on factories’ and that industrial architecture is the true ‘vernacular.’


Ex Industria may have been the first exhibition to examine the tradition of industrial architecture in Waterloo Region, but it will certainly not be the last word on the subject. The research done for the exhibition has opened up new questions and lines of research. It has also inspired new admiration for the industrial heritage and recognition of the quality of some particular buildings. Building Waterloo Region will continue to pursue research and will nominate at least one building, the Dominion Tire Plant on Strange Street for an Ontario Association of Architects’ Landmark Award.