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Date of Completion: 2017
Architect: Perkins & Will Canada Inc.
Nominated by: Logan Kanapathi, MPP (Markham—Thornhill)
“Not only is the elegant facility a place that mixes things up as it brings them together, it delights in its many uses and takes unabashed pleasure in being a stage for the unexpected.”
Christopher Hume, Toronto Star
Aaniin means “welcome” in Ojibwe, making it a fitting name for a building that seeks to be a place for inclusion, sharing and the coming-together of one of Canada’s most diverse communities.
A Reflection of the Community
From its inception, community was at the heart of the Aaniin Community Centre and Library. The design team spent more than a year consulting with residents, city staff, librarians and community groups in focus groups, school and town hall meetings. Their feedback shaped the building’s diverse programming—an open teaching kitchen, co-working studio and maker spaces provide an important resource for newcomers to gain a foothold within the local community and economy, while an indoor playground for kids, a teen area with slouchy furniture and comfortable lounging areas for adults are all part of making a centre fit for the multigenerational users it serves.
Photo Credit: Tom Arban
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Perkins and Will
Even the building’s aesthetics take a cue from its local community: the red accents throughout the centre—from the underside of the library’s staircase to the glass wrapping around the triple-height pool area—celebrate a colour considered auspicious by many Asian cultures, one of the predominant cultural groups in the area.
Photo Credit: Tom Arban, courtesy of Perkins and Will
Photo Credit: City of Markham
A Gathering Place
More than just a community centre, Aaniin brings together several programs, spaces and activities to create a vibrant hub. Apart from a public library and large gathering spaces, the centre also includes an aquatics centre, rock climbing wall, maker space, creation studios, digital training rooms, children’s play space, a sensory room designed with autistic children in mind and a sports centre with a gymnasium and 150-metre long indoor track.
Connecting these spaces is a generous interior “main street” and a central indoor town square—a hyper-flexible gathering space flanked by amphitheatre seating, flexible storage areas and open mezzanines where up to 500 people can come together for a wide range of events, from intimate dance recitals to bustling cultural celebrations.
A Unifying Element
Bringing together these diverse spaces is a vast overhanging wood roof. The warm wood is a reference to the global association with shelter and creates the feeling of a united gathering space. It was also chosen for its renewable properties and ability to be regionally sourced.
This post forms part of our World Architecture Day Queen’s Park Picks 2019 series in which we asked Ontario’s Members of Provincial Parliament to nominate a prominent building, past or present, in their riding for a chance to learn more about it. Check out the rest of the series to learn more about great buildings across the province!
Hume, Christopher. “With Aaniin Community Centre, public space finally comes to Markham.” The Toronto Star. November 19, 2018.
Perkins & Will. “Aaniin Community Centre and Library.”
International Association for Sports and Leisure Facilities. “Aaniin Community Centre and Library in Markham.” June 28, 2019.