I am thrilled that the Prairie Wood Design Awards will be celebrating their tenth anniversary on March 13. While I eagerly anticipate the announcement of the winners, I have selected my favourites in each of the five categories.

Category: Recreational

Building: Victoria Park Pavilion

Location: Edmonton, Alberta

Designer: RHAD Architects

Photography: Jim Dobie Photography

I chose the Victoria Park Pavilion both for its beauty and because it serves so many purposes. First, I love the way the glulam beams and reflective glass help this human-made structure fit into its treed environment. It is a multi-season facility, encouraging people to get outside all year round. It is also nice to have access to a water fountain and a clean public washroom during a river valley bike ride, walk, or picnic. Selfish bonus: It’s located fairly close to my home, so it’s easy for me to get to. On one of my own river valley adventures, I stumbled upon a cultural event with dancers performing just outside the building.



Category: Commercial

Building: RAW:Almond Pop-Up Restaurant

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba

Designer: Joe Kalturnyk, Chad Connery, Jon Reid

Photography: Lindsay Reid

This submission had me at “built on the river ice”. At first glance, this pop-up restaurant blends in to its wintry environment, mimicking large mounds of snow. Inside is a stunning crisscross pattern of Baltic birch plywood. This project’s design team had three objectives in mind: create a unique and inviting structure, make sure it’s environmentally responsible, and ensure it’s easy to build in -40 C. While I’m not sure anything is easy to do at -40 C, I’m happy some people think so because this is a really cool idea. I hope something like this pops up in Edmonton!


Category: Residential

Building: P+M House

Location: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Designer: Oxbow Architecture and Metaamo Studio

Photography: Pictures courtesy of Oxbow Architecture and Metaamo Studio

Feelings about infill homes are varied, but I’m loving the look of these space-efficient homes that seem to be appearing faster than I can keep track of. Beyond my partiality to boxy, wood-featuring infills, I really appreciate this project for its creative solutions to environmental constraints. The designers dealt with the property’s limited sun exposure by strategically placing windows and walls to allow south sunlight to shine all the way through the main floor, while limiting sun exposure in the bedrooms where cooler temperatures may be preferred. Sunlight, along with lots of insulation, keeps the living spaces of this home cozy despite the often frigid Saskatoon temperatures.


Category: Interior Showcase

Building: Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, University of Calgary

Location: Calgary, Alberta

Designer: Diamond Schmitt Architects and Gibbs Gage Architects

Photography: Ed White Photographics

I’m looking for an excuse to enjoy this spectacular space. The floating wooden study pods almost have me on the University of Calgary’s website searching for a program to apply to. I love it when care is taken to design visually pleasing learning spaces with natural materials. Studies continue to show that natural materials in schools lower stress in students and improve performance (check out: How Wood In Schools Can Nourish Learning). I also believe that, if effort is taken to make a learning space beautiful, it sends the message to students that learning is valued.


Category: Institutional

Building: École Gravelbourg School

Location: Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan

Designer: P3Architecture Partnership

Photography: Brad Pickard, Patricia Holdsworth

Okay, you got me. I have a soft spot for schools, and here is yet another stunning learning space. The high ceilings and massive colourful windows allow natural light to pour into this small town school, probably making it difficult to snooze during class! I also appreciate the creative design for efficient heating and cooling (see graphic below). Another plus: the designers sought input from students, staff, and parents when making their plans. The result is not only energy-efficient and appealing to the eye, but also provides a dynamic and collaboration-focused learning space for students and educators.



While these are the projects I would pick if I were a judge, what do I know? Stay tuned for the announcement of the actual winners, selected by a panel of design professionals, on March 13. For more information or for tickets to the Prairie Wood Design Awards Gala, please visit wood-works.ca/alberta or contact Barbara Murray at bmurray@wood-works.ca.

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