KPMB creates a “mind space” at the University of Waterloo

Opening ceremonies were held last week in Waterloo for Canada’s new “mind space”: the Mike and Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum Nano Centre (QNC). The massive 26,010-square-metre Centre at the University of Waterloo, designed by Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg (KPMB) is a showcase for Canadian innovation and industry in the fields of quantum computing and nanotechnology – the first of its kind in the world to bring together the two disciplines under one roof.

“Breakthrough science is advancing at dizzying speed today, with quantum physics at atomic and sub-atomic scale.” says Mike Lazaridis, founder of the Centre, “Simultaneously, rapid movement is happening in nanotechnology, where fabrication of materials, devices and systems 100 nanometres or smaller is being explored. This critical nexus of quantum computing and nanotechnology brings the world closer to the cusp of previously unimagined solutions and insights.”

The state-of-the-art new QNC located on the University of Waterloo’s main campus in the Math/Computer/Science district is a five-storey building that houses the Institute for Quantum Computing, the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology and the university’s undergraduate program in nanotechnology engineering – a total of 400 academics are accommodated.

Stephen Hawking, world-renowned physicist, who participated in the official opening, commented that the new Mike & Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum-Nano Centre “is a work ofarchitectural genius.” Since 1999, Professor Hawking has partnered with the University of Waterloo.

The Quantum Nano Centre was conceptually inspired by the famed Newton Institute in Cambridge, U.K. IQC and Nanotechnology Engineering each occupy their own building and are joined by a six-storey central atrium which acts as an indoor pedestrian route and an informal gathering space. The design organizes “mind spaces” – lounges, offices and meeting rooms – around the edge of the atrium where interdisciplinary interaction can flourish.

As Marianne McKenna, KPMB Architects founding partner and partner-in-charge of the Quantum Nano Centre project says, “Waterloo, Ontario has evolved into Canada’s technology centre, the equivalent of Silicon Valley in California. KPMB is proud to have played a role in the physical renaissance of the Kitchener-Waterloo region. With the opening of the Lazaridis Quantum Nano Centre, Waterloo has gained immense intellectual capital that will have a multiplier effect on the economy of the region and of Canada.”

KPMB took an Integrated Design Team Approach to the project. As Mitchell Hall, KPMB design architect and principal-in-charge led the design team says, “We first engaged researchers, both theorists and experimentalists, in deep discussions to understand the ways and patterns of their work. This advance research later provided the groundwork for the development of the interior and exterior of the complex.”

Designed to meet stringent scientific standards – with controls for vibration, temperature fluctuation and electromagnetic radiation – the facility is of the highest international caliber. One of the signature features of the facility is a 929-square-metre cleanroom with fabrication facilities for quantum and nanodevices, as well as an advanced metrology suite, extensive teaching and research laboratories.

The exterior is distinguished by a hexagonal honeycomb lattice of structural steel, a pattern inspired by the stable hexagonal carbon structure of the nanotube. The podium of the building is clad with burnished concrete block to relate to the primarily masonry fabric of the University of Waterloo.

About Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects (Toronto): 

KPMB Architects is one of Canada’s leading architecture firms with over 175 awards for architectural excellence, including 12 Governor General’s Medals. In Toronto, KPMB’s widely-acclaimed projects include: the Royal Conservatory of Music, Gardiner Museum, Canada’s National Ballet School and the TIFF Bell Lightbox, home of the Toronto International Film Festival. Recent educational projects in Canada and the U.S. include the Rotman School of Management Expansion at the University of Toronto, Spragge Hall at Yale University, the Music and Theater Arts building at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.