Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics / Saucier + Perrotte architectes

Architects: Saucier + Perrotte architectes
Location: Waterloo, Ontario,
Principal in Charge: Gilles Saucier
Project Architect: André Perrotte
Project team: Trevor Davies, Andrew Butler, Dominique Dumais, Eric Majer, Pierre-Alexandre Rhéaume, Anna Bendix, Sudhir Suri, Christian Hébert, Laurence LeBeux, Quinlan Osborne, Jean-Louis Léger, Samantha Schneider, Nathalie Cloutier, Christine Levine, Jean-François Lagacé, Sergio Morales, Guillaume Sasseville, Maxime Gagné, Audrey Archambault
Civil Engineer: Stantec Consulting Ltd.
Structural Engineer: Blackwell Engineering Ltd.
Mechanical & Electrical engineer: Crossey Engineering Ltd.
Contractor: Eastern Construction
Acoustics: Acoustics Engineering Ltd.
Constructed Area: 6,000 sqm
Design year: 2004-2006
Photographs: Marc Cramer

Riding the controversial line between public and private space, this research institute attempts to subvert the usual hard thresholds established by private enterprise in the public realm. The site is on the shore of Silver Lake, at the northern edge of Waterloo’s downtown core and the southern edge of the city’s central park. Adjacent to the primary pedestrian access between the university campus and the city center, the site is an urban wilderness between clearly defined worlds.

The design is takes inspiration from the wide-ranging, hard to define concepts that make up the subject matter of theoretical physics, at once micro- and macro-cosmic, rich in information and of indeterminate form and substance. Between city and park, the Perimeter Institute expands and inhabits the improbable space of the line separating the two. The building defines the secure zones of the Institute’s facilities within a series of parallel glass walls, embedded in an erupting ground plane that reveals a large reflecting pool. The north façade, facing the park across this pool, reveals the Institute as an organism, a microcosm of discrete elements. The south façade, facing the city across train tracks and the city’s main arterial road, presents the Institute as a unified but transforming entity, of enigmatic scale and content. Entry to the Institute is possible from both the north, along the reflecting pool, and the south, under the new ground plane.

The interior of the Institute is organized around two central spaces, the main hall on the ground floor and the garden on the first. Spaces for administration, meeting and seminar rooms, leisure and fitness spaces, and a multipurpose theatre for symposia and public presentations, have direct access to the main hall. The circulation corridors running east-west are positioned between the opalescent glass planes, which are occasionally punctured and shifted to reveal views across the interior space of the hall. Vertical circulation climbs these walls, tendrils of ground that run from the garden through the building. The garden – nature emerging from the vacuum – is crossed by three bridges that puncture all the planes, as well as the north and south façades. The bridges provide quick access to information, facilities and research colleagues. These conduits, which formally bind together the Institute, are routes crossing the improbable space between theoretical physics and everyday life.

Cite: "Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics / Saucier + Perrotte architectes" 22 Jan 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 25 May 2015. <>
  • Mike Mecanics

    One of the my favourite projects of all times!! Saucier et Perrote, a really good team, and anybody knows, and heard about them!!Why??

    Congratulations for the post, another really good post, a custom of Archdaily

  • ap

    this is a great project .. it was completed a while ago …
    I think it was because they are Canadian :)
    some of us from Australia have heard of them tho,

  • Nya

    The building is spectacular to look at indeed but as always I do not read the article I look at the project and try to understand it visually and so far I am confused. Sorry if was not meant to be looked at that way.

  • Scott

    Really stunning project, this is the first I have heard of it but thats what I like most about this blog, lots of interesting projects DAILY :).

    Nya, I don’t necisarily understand the space/use well either. Maybe labeling would have helped, especially on the plans ;) I kind of like to make it up myself though too :)

  • Rocket Valentino

    Yup, really like this one, too!

  • d

    Are the stacked pods shipping containers?

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  • sky

    boring~~ stupid combinations!!

  • sinse

    If you want to amuse yourself “sky”, go and watch a sci fi movie, or a chick flick, I don’t know. This building is just exquisite. It is so damn well detailed and constructed that it looks like a 3d model. Superb!

  • Audric

    I’ve visited this building and had a tour around – it is quite impressive, with a lot of effort directed towards meeting the needs of the researchers and their varying working methods. There is the occasional oddity on the outside where some details may not have been thought out or executed thoroughly, but all in all quite refined.

  • Mike

    I think that this project is really amazing! the way they use all of the materials and the solution, it’s as Sinse said an exquisite project, and Sky I respect your point of view, but I don’t share it, it’ll be good if you mention one project that you like.

    Saucier + Perrotte architectes and excellent Job, i really enjoyed this article thanks Nico.

  • vibenade

    amazingly lovely NICE building!

  • http://arc Rokas

    They’ve spent a lot of time on this project-every detail is sharpened and detailed!To do a good looking building-its one thing-but to do a building (civical)thinking how it will look like not only from the outside,but from inside too-well done guys,well done-what else can I say?

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  • pedja


  • http://www, pouyan mokhtarani

    that’s great amazing ….

  • M

    Great building! Those windows in black wall are great!

  • Bijan Homayouni

    Actually, I was part of mechanical design team for this building in year 2000/2001 and I think it will be helpful for some people if I explain a bit the strategy behind South Face black wall.
    Basically, the south black wall is a two-layer solar wall i.e. an insulated wall and a thin metal plate collector in front of that. This wall is designed to draw the outside air between the two layers (air cavity) in order to deliver a higher temperature outside air, due to convection heat transfer between the front metal black surface and the air inside the cavity. The solar heated air is then directed into the building’s ventilation system, where it is distributed throughout the building.
    The reason the black color was chosen for south wall’s surface is that, darker colored objects are excellent absorbers of light. In fact, black surfaces absorb almost all light, and it converts that light to thermal energy, and emits it back out as heat.
    The solar wall air heating technology is basically a solar thermal technology in which the energy from the sun is captured by an absorbing medium and used to heat air. It is typically the most cost-effective out of all the solar technologies, especially in commercial and industrial applications.