Winner: 2010 NWCB Outstanding Project of the Year (Suspended Ceiling, Canada)

CBC Radio Canada

In 1928, the Canadian federal government established a royal commission to advise on the future of broadcasting in Canada. That commission recommended the creation of a nationally-owned company to operate a coast-to-coast broadcast system. The Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission (CRBC) was created in 1932 to meet that recommendation.

In 1936 the Canadian Broadcasting Act created the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) as the successor to the CRBC, and Canada's national public broadcaster was born. At that time, CBC/Radio-Canada encompassed eight publicly owned or leased stations and 14 private affiliates. Thanks to new transmitters, national coverage reached 76 percent of the population within one year and included French-language broadcasting out of a station in Montréal.

In 2006, the CBC undertook a project to renovate and add to their regional headquarters in Vancouver, British Columbia – the same headquarters from which the 2010 Winter Olympics would be broadcast. The architecture firm of Hotson Bakker Boniface Haden (HBBH) was retained to complete the design. As one of the key architectural finishes for the project, HBBH chose wood.

Panels from 9Wood, Inc. in Springfield, Oregon were employed in the atrium, the newsroom and the servery in the new audience lounge. Architect Kate Gerson explains:

In all three cases wood was the material of choice to add warmth to the otherwise fairly cool palette. Rather than using the more common treatment of one standard size of wood slat installed with one standard spacing, we chose to use multiple sizes and depths of wood, creating a more playful rhythm to the installations. Two types of 12" modules were developed, using three different sizes of wood, resulting in a more random feel.

In addition to bringing a warm and organic flavor to the finish schedule, the wood panels help give interest and definition to the physical spaces they inhabit, as well as provide acoustic treatment to a potentially problematic area. Says Gerson:

The newsroom roof structure is very basic, and relies on the suspended acoustic elements to help give the ceiling plane some shape. Thus, the wood panels in the newsroom serve a double function of providing sound absorption – by providing black duct-liner insulation mats behind the wood slats – and adding shape and warmth to this vast space. The panels do not cover the entire ceiling, but are suspended as individual clouds defining an implied ceiling plane. Simple strip fluorescent lights are mounted directly on the wood ceiling panels and continue as independently suspended fixtures beyond the panels to help to further define this implied ceiling plane. As well, a series of skylights brings a significant amount of natural daylight into the space. As the ceiling is not a solid, continuous plane, the larger newsroom volume is easily evident, which with the help of the skylights, makes the space feel lighter and more open.
In the atrium, we used the wood the length of one wall, helping to draw the public in the front door off the plaza and up the stairs through the length of the atrium to the reception desk. Again there is acoustical treatment behind the wood slats, to help absorb sound in a space that is otherwise mostly hard surfaces. To add further life to this wall, we replaced some slots with light coves, with color-changing LED light strips that are programmable to create different patterns and rhythms. The same wall treatment folds into a lower ceiling over the reception/security desk. The lower wood ceiling over this area helps to distinguish it from the remainder of the large Atrium volume, and brings a more appropriate scale to this area.

Benton and Overbury of Surrey, British Columbia were the contracted ceiling installers for the CBC project. Project Manager Chris Barton recalls, “I felt [CBC] was a good experience during a job that was very challenging from start to finish. While it wasn't technically a 'design build,' there were numerous changes to drawings and details in the almost three years from time of tender to time of completion. I felt that both Leo and Jonathan at 9Wood were very patient and helpful in all aspects of the project. It turned out to be a nice project that came together well in the end."

9Wood's local sales representative, Mark Bromley of Cascadia Design Products, echoes the sentiment. “I was just proud to have participated in this high profile project."

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