An architecture firm based in Winnipeg, with roots in Winkler, has received a prestigious award for their work on a project in Canada's north.
Verne Reimer Architecture (VRA) recently received the Canadian Architecture Award of Merit. The award was for the firm's work on the Inuusirvik Wellness Hub in Iqaluit. 

"He's a pioneering architect that's one of the first to come out of Winkler, and he's still practicing," said Jeff Penner, the practice's Sport + Community Architect, Senior Associate. Penner was referring to Architect, Verne Reimer, who is the Principal in Charge at VRA.

Like Reimer, Penner also grew up in Winkler. He said he has a passion for working in rural communities.

"I started working in the north about five years ago when I joined the practice," said Penner. "I had been working there a little bit already, but things kind of blew up on some public infrastructure projects. The first one that kind of got us into the north again was what's called the Kivalliq LTC facility in Rankin Inlet, NWT. It's the first of its kind in the Arctic."

That project, Penner said, created new relationships for them in the north.

Penner explained the Canadian Architecture Award of Merit is very difficult to get, noting every year only a small group of projects (4 to 6 projects) are given this honor.

"They're very prestigious awards, very hard to get," said Penner. He said this is the first for him, and it's the first for Verne Reimer. "We were the only Manitoba architecture practice to be involved in an award like this this year."

Penner said they were very surprised and excited when it was announced they won. They were specifically happy for their client. 

"I think for us, it's more of a tip of like, looking at the importance of the story of this project, and the client's vision, the architecture and design team's ability and listening to that vision, and then the execution of that," said Penner. "That was kind of the neat thing. Not all the time does that happen." 

exterior of the Inuusirvik Community Wellness HubInuusirvik Community Wellness Hub

Penner said the client's vision was to create a community centre, with space for daycare, and educational and social programs in the core area of the City of Iqaluit.

"We were working with the company out of Toronto called Lateral Office, and they have been a partner with us on this project along with WSP Canada, they're a big engineering firm in Canada." Together, along with the client, the design was created. 

Penner said it's not a big project, but it's a really interesting vision. 

"One of the neat things about it is it has the Arctic's only green roof, which is kind of ironic. It has patios where they're learning to use the muskeg, and have sort of these decks where they can learn to even harvest berries, and stuff like that. So it's quite an interesting community project."

You can find specific information about those involved with the project, below:

Situated in an urban Iqaluit neighbourhood, the Inuusirvik Community Wellness Hub is designed to invite the community to gather and embrace. The mixed-use building provides a generous welcome hall, linked community space with attached kitchen, independent library, daycare classrooms and auxiliary spaces, and research office space.

As daylighting was determined to be a key success factor, the central welcome hall has voluminous height in which extends through the main roof and includes 360 degrees of clerestory glass to enable the sun to pour into the center of the building. The typical rectilinear concept of a building form is manipulated with soft rounded cut-outs to allow additional light and views to all inhabitants further enhancing quality of space throughout. The daycare classrooms are kept playful with linear lighting that is sprinkled throughout. The research offices promote collaboration with large open areas for workshops and
informal meetings.

The Inuusirvik Community Wellness Hub was a recipient of the 2023 Canadian Architect Design Award of Excellence.

Project Profile:
Client: Qaujigiartiit Health Research Centre
Total Building Area: 880m²
Construction Completion: November 2023
Construction Cost: $10.5M
Consultant Team:
Architectural: Verne Reimer Architecture Incorporated
Design Consultant: Lateral Office
Civil Engineers: WSP Canada Inc.
Structural Engineers: WSP Canada Inc.
Mechanical Engineers: WSP Canada Inc.
Electrical Engineers: WSP Canada Inc.
Landscape Architects: Verne Reimer Architecture Incorporated
Sustainability: WSP Canada Inc.
Interior Designers: Verne Reimer Architecture Incorporated
Quantity Surveyors: SLCCC Ltd.
General Contractor: NCC Development Limited

a specially designed roofLooking toward the roof of the building from the inside

an office space area