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Present & Future Heritage: The Quantum-Nano Centre

On June 9th, 2008, the groundbreaking of the Mike and Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum-Nano Centre was held. Officially opening in 2012, this new state-of-the-art facility for nanotechnology research laid the foundation for the future vision and aspirations of the University of Waterloo. It marked a new chapter in the University’s history and was another step in cementing its reputation as a leading Canadian academic institution and research centre. The campus, perhaps better recognized for its 1960s/70s concrete structures such as the Mathematics and Computing (MC) building and the Dana Porter library, would be brought into the 21st century with a high-tech glass and metal clad structure styled unlike anything previously seen before.

Designed by Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects (KPMB), the same firm that designed the CIGI building on Erb Street,  the building’s design and function take inspiration from the fields of quantum computing and nanotechnology. The building’s nanotechnology engineering research wing is highly recognizable with its exterior steel hexagonal honeycomb. The honeycomb fulfills the double duty of providing aesthetic form and structural function. Inspired by the stable hexagonal structure of carbon nanotubes, the complex design hints at the activities within, and minimizes the amount of interior support columns needed which provides the occupants with more open space and access to natural light from the outside.


Close up of the Honeycomb, under construction. Source: Victor Vucicevich, (c) 2012, reproduced under the CC Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

To the west of the honeycomb, closer to Ring Road, is a rectangular mass that houses the Institute of Quantum Computing (IQC). Using a variety of exterior materials that create various levels of transparency, this portion of the building centres on a six-storey atrium. Prominently situated within the atrium is a floating stairs. Tying in to the predominantly brick and concrete buildings characteristic of the University campus, the Quantum-Nano Centre’s podium uses a burnished concrete block. Labs are strategically buried below grade to minimize interference from EMI and vibration.


Inside the nanotechnology labs at the QNC. Source: University of Waterloo

The Quantum-Nano Centre stands out among the other campus buildings, and even within the City because of its unique architectural style.  The building combines novel construction techniques with a diverse blend of materials such as steel, glass, polycarbonates, wood and concrete. It is a new landmark of the University of Waterloo and a symbol of the region’s technological growth.

As a showcase of Canadian innovation and industry in the field of quantum computing and nanotechnology, the building was designed to meet stringent scientific standards. Built to mitigate vibration, temperature fluctuations, and electromagnetic radiation, the building, in addition to providing extra teaching space, also contains fabrication facilities for quantum and nano-sized devices.

The construction of the Quantum-Nano Centre marked a new era of investment and growth at the University. It served as the catalyst for an infrastructure boom around campus that would benefit all faculties, leading to a new collection of buildings such as Mathematics 3 (M3), Engineering 5 (E5), and the Science Teaching Complex (STC). The addition of these facilities provided much needed teaching space while also allowing the University to meet the drastically increased demand for its many undergraduate programs in the recent years.

Upon completion, the striking design became an instant landmark of the city and for many, the most prominent building on the Waterloo campus. As a truly unique building that represents not only past accomplishments, but also future ambitions of the region.

By Anson Chen

Title Photo Source: ShipandReceive, 2012, reproduced under CC Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.