No Small Plans:

Award Winning Buildings in Waterloo Region 1984-2014

Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery

Curated by Rick Haldenby | Esther E. Shipman | Vikkie Chen

No Small Plans grew out of the unexpected discovery that Waterloo Region is home to more Governor General’s Award-winning buildings than any other city in Canada save the big three metropolitan centres: Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. The Region also has more Ontario Association of Architects Award winning buildings than any city in the province other than Toronto. The tradition of quality modern design has its roots in the great industrial buildings built at the turn of the 20th Century and in the rich heritage of modern architecture from the 1950’s and 1960’s. This tradition was revived in the 1980’s with the construction of the Seagram Museum and has continued with the Kitchener City Hall, the Grand River Aquatic Centre, the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, the Perimeter Institute, The Balsillie School for International Affairs, the Grand River Institution, The Lyle S. Hallman Centre at the University of Waterloo. 

No Small Plans told the stories behind these remarkable buildings. Each of the eight national award winning projects had its own small ‘pavilion’ within the main gallery space at the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, which was itself one of the buildings on display. Each exhibit included a beautifully produced video interview with the architect explaining the ideas that inspired the design. In some cases, where there had been a design competition, the public was able to see alternate designs that were not built and compare them to the built work. The displays included preliminary sketches, presentation drawings, models, short critical descriptions and photographs of the finished building.

Large banners honoured the eight winners of the Ontario Association of Architects Design Awards: Federation Hall, the King and Queen Branch of the CIBC, the Hespeler Library, the School of Architecture and Design at Riverside Gallery, North House, the School of Pharmacy, the Waterloo Region Museum, the Stephen Hawking Centre at the Perimeter Institute.

No Small Plans relied heavily on the architects who designed the buildings on display. Without the support of the firms and individuals involved the exhibition could not have occurred. But telling the stories of individual buildings is only the beginning. The exhibition also drew connections between the projects and the architects behind them. In a large mural we created a genealogy of that connected the buildings and explored the influences. The Kitchener City Hall competition is a particularly important point whose results not only involved an award winning municipal building, but brought the architects, Kuwabara, Payne, McKenna and Blumberg the opportunity to do many more municipal buildings across the country and launched the careers of all the other finalists in the competition, effectively forming the next generation of Canadian architects.

List of Featured Award-winning Buildings

  • Seagram Museum, Barton Myers Architects, Governor General’s Medal (1986)
  • Grand River Aquatic Centre, MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects, Canadian Architect 25 Year Award (1990).
  • Kitchener City Hall, Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects,Governor General’s Medal (1994)
  • Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, Patkau Architects, Governor General’s Medal (1997)
  • Burt C. Matthews Hall, Teeple Architects, Governor General’s Award of Merit (1997)
  • Grand Valley Institution for Women, Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects, Governor General’s Award of Merit (1997)
  • Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, Saucier et Perrault Architects, Governor General’s Medal (2006)
  • Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) Campus, Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects, RIBA International Award (2013), AIA Design Excellence Award (2014), Governor General’s Medal (2014)



No Small Plans aimed to establish innovative and excellent design as a point of identity and pride in Waterloo Region. Thousands of people saw the show at the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery. Its greatest legacy would be a general increase in the quality of design across Waterloo Region at a moment in which the cities are being transformed by intensification and a new transit system. 

Two specific projects will build on the exhibition and contribute to the knowledge and appreciation of the buildings of the Region. The Seagram Museum/CIGI building is being nominated for a Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Prix du XXe siècle, which recognizes landmark buildings of national significance. Also in the works is a study of the Kitchener City Hall Competition from the perspective of a quarter century, focusing especially on the success of the five finalist firms and the role of the competition in establishing their careers.