Ideas About Projects
Institutional Educational Residential Urbanism Commercial Interiors Public Private

Theatre Aquarius Canopy + Façade Improvements

  • Type: Renovation, Institutional
  • Collaborators: Historia Restoration
  • Client: Theatre Aquarius
  • Size: 545 sf
  • Location: Hamilton, ON
  • Status: Complete
  • Project Architect: dpai Architecture Inc.

Theatre Aquarius was originally con­structed in 1991. With funds for the ini­tial construction being limited, functional and aesthetic compromises were made during construction. The design team engaged with the Theatre to address ongoing issues plaguing the building; to date, the roof along with all rooftop units and the curtainwall in the main lobby have been replaced. Functional issues dealt with, the Theatre has been able to turn its attention to aesthetic and urban design issues. One of the urban design deficiencies of the original building was its entrance. The small canopy and double swing doors were out of scale and provided an awkward transition from the side­walk to the lobby. Adorned only with a few incandescent Tivoli lights, the can­opy did little to enhance the Theatre’s street presence. The new canopy de­sign brings the street to life with a con­tinuous 1m-high video display wrapping around the new canopy accented with bands of LED lights shining down from the perforated metal soffit, providing presence and luster befitting a major Performing Arts Centre, while new au­tomatic sliding doors improve accessi­bility, giving all patrons a dignified en­trance-experience regardless of age or mobility. The original entrance to the building under-performed in terms of urban design – the small canopy and double swing doors were out of scale with the lobby and street elevation, providing an awkward transition from the sidewalk into the lobby. The new entrance canopy is considerably larger than the original and is supported by the existing decorative structural grid adorning the lobby – leaving the over­sized canopy columns to be removed, clearing the entrance-way, and framing the view west towards James Street and the Stelco Tower beyond. As theatre goers pass under the canopy, button LED lights sparkle in the canopy soffit illuminating the sidewalk and playfully dancing on the glass of the new automatic sliding doors. Patrons are whisked inside in an elegant and accessible manner – a thank-you to government funding for barrier free improvements is in order.The generous canopy provides Theatre Aquarius a practical shelter and a formal exterior gathering space, ultimately demarking Theatre Aquarius the anchor of the “King William Arts Walk” - the burgeoning commercial strip from James to Ferguson – a role now fulfilled with dignity. The new canopy uses the ex­isting decorative grid for struc­tural support and fills an entire structural bay with its width – instantly upgrading the en­trance to the theatre lobby in a way that seems to have been planned by the original design­ers and architects. At dawn the canopy appears as a shallow rectangular box cantilevered over the sidewalk – supported elegantly by steel rods above – then springing to life during prescribed hours the entire pe­rimeter emits colour and light in a preview of the action to fol­low inside the theatre. Videos screens compose the perime­ter of the canopy – providing the theatre a new way of en­gaging the community on the street: King William street – a designated special entertain­ment district would seem to have been calling for such a beacon amid the surface park­ing lots and other various plots of development potential.


2018 Award of Merit Urban Intervention, HBSA Achievement in Architecture Awards, Theatre Aquarius Canopy


“Theatre Aquarius, like many institutions in the non-profit sector, has big dreams, grand visions, and limited resources. That is exactly why a partner like david premi architecture has been so essential for us. They share our inspiration, and have the flexibility and responsiveness to help us actualize those ideas, while taking innovative approaches to ensure that the finished project reflects the vision, and not the roadblocks that were overcome along the way.”

Lorna Zaremba, General Manager Theatre Aquarius

Fire Station #1 & Fire and Emergency Services Headquarters

  • Type: Public, Institutional
  • Size: 1,835 m²
  • Location: Welland, ON
  • Collaborators: Mettko
  • Client: City of Welland
  • Status: In construction

The City of Welland Fire and Emergency Services has commissioned DPAI to design a new, 1,835 square metres (19,755 sf.), sustainable energy facility to serve as their new Fire Department Headquarters Building. The new facility is a one-storey structure comprising an Administrative & Training Building (Main Building) and an Operations & Equipment Area (Apparatus Area). It is anticipated that the new facility will be constructed to achieve 45% improvement over the minimum energy efficiency levels conforming to “Model National Energy Code for Buildings”.

The design of the building incorporates high-performance doors, windows and building materials, durable and low maintenance building finishes in addition to high performance mechanical & electrical systems.

The new building is divided into two main areas or portions, each of which could aim at different levels of energy efficiency. The main building is intended to exceed 45% the energy efficiency levels conforming to NECB 2015 and the apparatus area is intended to meet energy efficiency values as mandated by OBC 2012 (or latest revision).

Toronto Pan Am Sports Clinic

  • Type: Public, Educational, Institutional, Interiors
  • Location: Toronto, ON
  • Client: University of Toronto & City of Toronto
  • Collaborators: Mettko
  • Status: on hold

The Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre (TPASC) is a LEED Gold, world-class fitness and training centre. Co-owned by the City of Toronto and the University of Toronto, TPASC was purpose-built for the 2015 Pan Am & Parapan American Games, the 2017 North American Indigenous Games, and the 2017 Invictus Games. Today, it is a sport and recreation anchor serving elite amateur athletes and para-athletes located within the South-East Ontario region.

A legacy component for TPASC was the realization of a Sports Medicine Clinic, housing leading sports medicine practitioners and researchers. Accessibility and inclusive design uniquely geared toward para-athletes was paramount for the tenant fit-out of this space. The double height ceilings permitted an increase in tenant area via a new mezzanine level complete with accessible LULA and stairs.

A new main level interior pavilion is a focal point in the space and houses reception, admin areas, kitchenette with workstation bar counter, and a secure client locker area. Directly adjacent the pavilion is the open gym. The gym houses top of the line equipment (treadmill, recumbent bicycle, ballet bar, double + single bilateral weight pulleys, free-weights, dynamometer, balance trainers, etc.) and includes a yoga area. Supporting the gym are audio-visual screens, a sink, mobile ECG units, storage, and accessories.

Other rooms form part of this project and include open and private treatment areas, 2 exam rooms and a family exam room, 2 consultation rooms, a wet treatment room, and a physician’s touchdown area, equipment charging rooms and server and storage rooms.

Fitzhenry Studios + Atrium

  • Type: Institutional
  • Client: McMaster University
  • Collaborators: N/A
  • Size: 762 m2
  • Location: Hamilton, ON
  • Status: Complete

In 2013, Dr. Robert Fitzhenry donated generously to the School of the Arts (SoTA) for a new addition and interior renovation to the existing studios and classrooms at Togo Salmon Hall. The objective was to engage community practitioners, alumni, faculty, staff and students in the design process to understand what the needs, potentials, and caveats of the project would be. The new addition provides vastly expanded floorspace and amenities for more equipment-intensive media — printmaking and sculpture — including facilities for lithography, etching, and silkscreen, as well as wood- and metal-working, and one of Canada’s few remaining metal casting facilities housed in a University fine arts facility. Once-windowless studios for upper-year students have been expanded, and flex-studio and new media facilities balance the use of traditional media with an understanding of the shifting nature of creative practice with the emergence of new tools. Gentle north light pours into the interior of the double-height painting studio and the addition of a 25’x25’x25’ glass-enclosed atrium (“the Cube”), provides a powerful interior environment for critique, exhibition and performance. The SoTA’s new urban prominence has strengthened connections with other faculties so that art students can offer their unique perspectives to engineering and humanities students, and vice versa. Because of urban connections at two levels, the highly transparent “Cube” is now in frequent demand as an event space on campus, while broadly showcasing the work of students and faculty members during both working critiques and final exhibits.

“It has been a pleasure to work with DPAI on our art studio expansion and renovation project at McMaster University. DPAI’s friendly consultation throughout the process was effective and much appreciated. They applied their expertise to our unique demands, arriving at aesthetically dynamic solutions for a complex network of work spaces. The result is a functionally and visually cohesive space.”

Professor Judy Major-Girardin McMaster School of the Arts

Hamilton Public Library + Farmers Market

  • Type: public institutional urbanism interiors
  • Client: City of Hamilton, Hamilton Public Library
  • Collaborators: EXP Engineering Consultants
  • Size: 7,000 SM
  • Location: Hamilton, ON
  • Status: Complete
  • Project Architect: dpai Architecture inc with rdh Architects
  • Project Interiors: dpai Architecture inc with rdh Architects
  • Photos: Tom Arban & Jeff Tessier

The renovation of the Hamilton Public Library was conceived as a design-driven opportunity to spur sustained urban renewal. A 96-meter long, continuous glass vestibule with LED lighting re-establishes the building’s relationship to York Boulevard, while the interior renovations are geared towards elevating the library’s functionality and increased public access to creative and communications technology.

Since 1980, Hamilton Public Library + Farmers’ Market have shared the same building but have been awkwardly disconnected from one another and from York Boulevard. The renovation and expansion helped re-brand and re-connect both institutions and the street. This connection enhanced functionality and improved circulation and accessibility. The ground floor of the library was completely renovated, and an addition provided space for the introduction of an information commons. Remodeled children’s areas with aquarium, a new reading room with fireplace, and green wall are amongst the new programmatic elements. The design facilitates the introduction of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology into the library, transforming the traditional service delivery model into a contemporary merchandising approach. The Hamilton Public Library is one of the most notable buildings in Canada and has received excessive media attention, as well as multiple prestigious international and national awards like the International Architecture Award – The Chicago Athenaeum of Architecture and Design, the “Best of Canada” Best Institutional Interior, the Ontario Library Association Award of Excellence, the Ontario Association of Architects Award of Excellence and others.

“I have worked with many architects on many projects; this project was the first time I found myself letting go, confident that our hopes and visions for the building were being heard and were being translated into a workable plan combined with an amazing AWE factor. Use of the building skyrocketed and has remained high ever since the transformation performed by David and his team.”

Former Chief Librarian Ken Roberts Hamilton Public Library

Brock Library

  • Type: Public, Institutional, Educational, Interiors
  • Client: Brock University
  • Collaborators: Seguin Engineering, BTY Group
  • Location: St. Catharines, ON
  • Status: Complete
  • Photography: Revelateur Studios

DAs libraries shift from storing information contained in physical volumes to digital forums, the space requirements for the traditional library stack shrinks at a substantial rate. Equally rapid is the change in the way students and faculty access and work with digital data, contributing to many learning institutions to re-think the layout of the long-favoured space, the reading room. Brock University found itself in just this situation, and in 2018, DPAI continued the re-imagination of the modern library reading room in the James A. Gibson Library. A central curvilinear, tapered partial-height partition was proposed to provide three centrally located meeting rooms for small to medium study groups and video conferences, while retaining light and vision through the sculptural form with generous glazed panels. Access to natural light is a precious commodity in the modernist Schmon tower and priority was given to open-study and small collaborative study groupings.

This previously non-descript room, was a bonus space created as the physical volumes of the library decreased, and library stacks were removed. The space was given added abstracted texture through use of materials that are inspired by the very nature that surrounds the Tower. A portion of the concrete waffle ceiling was exposed, with the added benefit of increasing the height and volume of the study space. A variety of study configurations were incorporated to address both formal and informal study styles. DPAI worked with Brock’s Facilities for Accessible Design Standard to provide not only an accessible space but a holistic inclusive environment.

“It was a pleasure for us to work with architects who understood so much about student needs and have a solid grounding in trends in the evolution and transformation of libraries. David and his team were very collaborative and responsive to our needs. They were ultimately able to unlock the potential within the constraints of a challenging building and were able to translate our vision into a dynamic learning space. The result resonates deeply with our students who have commented that the new space motivates, inspires and energizes them. Their only complaint is that we haven’t yet done the same with the rest of the library. I would welcome the opportunity to work with dpai again would recommend their team without hesitation.”

Chief Librarian Mark Robertson Brock University

Harry Howell Twin Pad Arena

  • Type: Public, Institutional
  • Client: City of Hamilton
  • Collaborators: RDH Architects (Prime Consultants), Jain and Associates
  • Size: 8268 m2
  • Location: Hamilton, ON
  • Status: Complete
  • Photography: N/A

This twin pad arena reached LEED Silver status and is to date the most energy efficient facility owned by the City of Hamilton. De­signed to meet current recreational needs, it is fully accessible, ex­ceeding Ontario Building Code requirements. DPAI partnered with rdh architects, leading the site planning and site plan control efforts. The master site plan involved the relocation of two soccer fields, the preservation of the existing single pad arena, and accommodating a proposed Ministry of Transportation highway interchange. DPAI also participated in the design, construction documents and LEED cer­tification process. The facility houses two full-size hockey rinks, one with year-round ice, and elevated seating for 900 people. Warm viewing areas of the rinks on both levels were integrated in the design, along with 12 change rooms, 4 referee rooms, a multi-pur­pose room, meeting rooms, a pro-shop and a large central atrium.

U of T Food Services

  • Type: Public, Institutional, Educational, Interiors
  • Client:University of Toronto
  • Collaborators: H.H. Angus & Associates Ltd.
  • Size: 1331.5 sf + 845sq.ft
  • Location: Toronto, ON
  • Status: Complete
  • Photography: Revelateur Studios

The University of Toronto’s Food and Ancillary Services wished to realize five unique, proprietary food concepts on campus. Three located at the Medical Science Building and two at Sid Smith Hall. DPAI provided a full-scope of architectural services for Stone Oven Pizza, a pizzeria inspired by simple, fresh ingredients; Soup!, a soup bar inspired by Andy Warhol’s pop art; and Not Just Greens, a salad bar designed to showcase the importance of local, organic greens and ingredients in everyday nutrition. The design for Tortillas juxtaposes authentic southwestern culture and industry while Gourmet Burger House at Sid Smith Hall is inspired by the hot gourmet food truck trend. Elements of note include custom pop art boxes designed by DPAI, bicycle taxidermy, custom industrial lighting and stunning custom designed steel, live edge and acrylic panel service counters. The service counters were designed and built to last; the live edge wood and undulating butcher block counter wrap at the pizzeria serve to lend warmth to the space and unify all five food concepts. This renovation raised the bar for design for food services on campus.

Oakville Townhall

  • Type: Public, Institutional, Interiors
  • Collaborators: Jain and Associates, MTE Consultants, OCM Landscape Architects
  • Size: 145,000 sq.ft
  • Photography: Molly Merriman

DPAI was the Prime Consultant for the renovation project to the Town of Oakville’s Town Hall. The project involved multiple phases, including development of a Master Accommodation Plan for the Town Hall, with concurrent renovations to Oakville’s customer service centre, service desk and existing Shipping + Receiving area, followed by the main renovation construction phase.

The Master Accommodation Plan marries a design that optimizes location, functionality, synergies, and space usage with a phasing plan that minimizes disruption to ongoing operations and ensures cost efficiency. The Master Accommodation Plan was completed in July of 2012.

Renovation to the customer service centre required total completion by the end of 2013, presenting an aggressive schedule requiring design and drawings to be completed in a very short time frame. The Shipping + Receiving renovation required a reconfiguration, creating a more functional and efficient space. The new space remained in its existing location due to its proximity to the property entrance and accommodations were made so that all Shipping and Receiving functions remain operational during construction.

McMaster Kinesiology Labs

  • Type: Public, Institutional, Educational, Interiors
  • Collaborators: Mantecon Engineering
  • Client: McMaster University
  • Size: 743 m2
  • Location: Hamilton, ON
  • Status: Complete
  • Photography: Magdalena Kisielewska

When the Department of Kinesiology needed to design facilities to house new biomechanics, physiology and motor-control labs using existing space in the Ivor Wynne Centre Building they turned to DPAI. Short on time, but in need of a thorough assessment of the space, DPAI led user groups through a participatory design process that was crafted specifically to facilitate the compressed schedule. With a scope of work that included all interior design and furniture selection, the end product is filled with light and transparency and a once hidden department was now front and center.

“We were renovating an existing use research and educational space in an older building on a limited budget. The team from DPAI took the time to thoroughly assess our current and future needs and managed to channel our vision into design features that have had a lasting positive impact on all users of the space. We have found that the space is adaptable to our needs, robust in terms of utilization and comfortable and energizing to work in. From start to finish, the team from DPAI was amazing to work with. Their attention to detail, commitment to quality work and focus on customer service resulted in an outcome that far surpassed our expectations.”

Dean of Science Maureen Jane MacDonald Ph.D. McMaster University

Brock University Plaza Building

  • Type: Public, Institutional, Urbanism, Educational, Interiors
  • Client: Brock University
  • Collaborators: MacKay Lyons-Sweetapple Architects, RDH Architects, Halsall and Associates, NAK Design
  • Size: 6596 m2
  • Location: St. Catharines, ON
  • Status: Complete

The 71,000 sf building included a new 13,000 sf fully fit-out Campus Store on the ground level with two 14,000 sf storeys of academic offices and teaching spaces above. The building is connected to the existing Student Services Building on three of five levels and will act as a gateway building for pedestrian traffic arriving by both automobile and mass transit.

The building also houses the LifeSpan Development Research Centre which includes the departments of the Brock Research Institute for Youth Studies (BRIYS), Social-Personality Group, Hormone and Brain Development Research, Infancy Research, and Neuropsychology/ Psychophysiology Labs. The building is a key element in the development and expansion of the South Campus. The building attained LEED® Silver Accreditation and includes: stormwater management quality control, light pollution reduction, energy recovery systems, enhanced commissioning, construction waste management, recycled content, regional materials and low-emitting materials, temperature and lighting control systems, enhanced daylight and views, external shading devices and an innovative conditioned air delivery system that utilizes the thermal mass of the building’s precast hollow core structural deck to store heating and cooling and to significantly reduce energy consumption.

DPAI was responsible for all contract administration services and David Premi acted as project Architect and Design Team Leader.

Awards 2012 City of Burlington Accessibility Award

Institute for Applied Health Sciences

  • Type: Public, Institutional, Educational, Interiors
  • Client: Mohawk College
  • Collaborators: Jain & Associates Ltd.
  • Size: 2323 m2
  • Location: Hamilton, ON
  • Status: Complete
  • Photography: Revelateur Studios

Mohawk College’s new Centre for Health Care Simulation at the Institute for Applied Health Sciences (IAHS) located at McMaster University, houses over 25,000 square feet of integrated clinical lab space and supports over 2,000 full and part-time students per semester. The centre is an inter-disciplinary learning environment enabling students to develop field and clinical skills as part of an inter-professional team. Students demonstrate skills and competency using technology enhanced simulation, paired with a simulated patient program.

DPAI designed the various space types to support and align with the IAHS vision and saw the multi-phased projects through to completion. The project includes a new ultrasound simulation lab, cardiovascular technology lab, accessible testing centre, computer and silent study lab, integrated and collaborative resource library (which includes a new service hub, a large anatomical model display case, various collaborative and solo study areas, small meeting rooms, brain storm area and study lounge), staff workroom, research lab, point of care demonstration lab, an expanded nurse clinical tutorial lab and two new ADL (apartment simulation) labs.

"I was impressed on many levels with the DPAI team. They are professional, responsive, respectful and did a very good job of engaging all the stakeholders in the process. They were flexible and accommodating to the changing scope and requirements of the project. The space has been transformed from a 20 year old traditional learning environment to a modern, energetic and creative space that attracts students from all across campus."

Paul Armstrong, Vice President Academic Mohawk College

Connect Communities Hamilton

  • Type: Private, Institutional, Interiors
  • Client: Connect Communities
  • Collaborators: Ira McDonald Construction Ltd., Blackwell, CK Engineering Ltd., Adesso Design Inc., A.T. McLaren Ltd, ODAN-DETECH, Terra – Dynamics, Soil-Mat Engineers & Consultants Ltd
  • Size: 3743 M2
  • Location: Hamilton, ON
  • Status: Complete

Connect Communities, a transitional residence for those recovering from Acquired Brain Injuries or Stroke, implemented a new treatment model in Ontario that assists their residents in a life redesign process. This treatment program’s traditional barrier-free code requirements be creatively avoided or hidden where possible, creating a definitively residential environment. The care facility belies its formal identity to fit within the scale and persona of the residential community it which exists. Boasting 42 bedrooms and ensuites, communal living areas connected by amenity spaces and offices, the facility is complemented by a tangible connection to the landscape and thoughtful access to the surrounding community. A treatment room includes consideration for flooring and equipment as well as a ceiling mounted patient lift to assist in client rehabilitation and fitness programs. Care was taken to provide both privacy to the clients in the treatment room, but also provide views out to the protected conservation lands outside.

The building sits on a slab on grade foundation that respects the protected karst geology beneath. A compressed approvals and construction schedule was aided by a pre-engineered steel structure that is prefabricated and assembled on-site in large panels – saving time, ensuring tight construction tolerances and increasing safety on the construction site.

Helsiniki Public Library

  • Type:Institutional, Concept
  • Year: 2012
  • Location: Helsinki, Finland
  • Status: Concept

As a public institution, the new Helsinki Central Library is both representative of Finnish society today, and acts as an incubator for the evolution of the culture. It is not only a place where information is consumed and digested but also a forum for the creation of cultural content. The Library is a connector and provides a point of interface between Finnish Culture and the world. It is a symbol of the richness, diversity, and dynamic nature of the country. The mass of the building is elevated above a continuous plaza surface which extends infinitely into the fabric of the City, through the country, and beyond, thereby connecting Finland with the world. The “underbelly” of the building directly addresses the ground surface, providing a direct interface. The face of the underbelly (the inter-face) is clad entirely in a system of glass and LED light slats.

The main mass of the building has been formed through surrender to the forces at play: the presence of the Parliament Buildings, the views, the sun, and the program. The result is a sculpted form with varying percentages of clear glazing, acid etched glazing and titanium clad spandrel panels which exhibits interplay between solid and void, transparency and opacity, not unlike a block of ice as it is eroded and changed by the elements.

Part of the space created below the inter-face is enclosed program space, and some exterior public space. The boundary between these realms is transparent and meandering so as to be insubstantial. The interior spaces are very public in nature: main entrances to program above, café, exhibition, lounge, shops, and flexible performance space.


  • Type:Institutional, Public
  • Year: 2012
  • Client: The City of Hamilton and Hamilton Public Library
  • Location: Carlisle, ON
  • Status: Completed

The City of Hamilton and the Hamilton Public Library engaged DPAI to conduct a feasibility study for a future library addition to the Carlisle Community Centre and Arena, located at 1496 Centre Rd in Carlisle.

DPAI met with library staff and end users to identify key program and space requirements, which included: 3,000sf of space, transparency and street presence, three distinct areas for adults, teens and children, flexible public staff area with private secure staff lounge and kitchenette, provision of a central flexible space for after-hours use, an “express area” that could be sectioned off for after-hours, unsupervised use, and full compliance with the Hamilton Barrier-Free Design Guidelines. DPAI worked alongside structural, mechanical and electrical consultants to develop a complete design brief as well as Class D costing and conceptual renderings. The end result was to achieve a simple, functional and logical interpretation of the program arrangement by arranging the private (“opaque”) functions into 3 solid “blocks” (book drop, staff back-of-house, and WCs/utility spaces), while the stacks and main workspaces remain flexible, transparent and open. The exterior walls form an alternating pattern of solid and void, providing space for shelving against the wall, and opening up with portions of glass at ground level to create a sense of visibility, transparency and security from the street and parking lot approach.

Along with the complete feasibility report, DPAI presented the results at a Library board meeting and assisted in answering questions/identifying areas of future concern.

Living Hope Church

  • Type: Public, Institutional
  • Client: Living Hope Christian Assembly
  • Size: 24,000 sp.ft
  • Location: Hamilton, ON
  • Status: Complete

DPAI assisted living hope Christian assembly in converting a 1960’s warehouse in Hamilton’s east end into a second campus for the church. Participatory design sessions were carefully designed to assist in programming the space and in determining budgets and scope of various project phases.

The design included exterior upgrades and a full interior renovation. The exterior corrugated metal cladding was repaired and repainted to give the building an upgraded look. A new building entrance was introduced at the rear along with a new large window that floods the common areas of the foyer and café with natural light and views of the green escarpment backdrop. The existing building interior was gutted down to its structure and new programmatic zones and spaces were arranged into volumes with a clear diagram that accommodate the diverse needs of the congregation.