Uptown expands

People flocked by the thousands to the Perimeter Institute (PI) on Sept. 18, eager to catch a glimpse into the architectural masterpiece and intellectual powerhouse.

The opening of the Perimeter Institute’s new addition, the Stephen Hawking Centre, provided the public with a rare glimpse behind closed doors.

Current estimates provided by the Perimeter Institute indicate that upwards of 11,000 tickets were given out for the weekend’s celebrations, although counting is still underway.

“It’s heartwarming to see the interest and the support that the PI institution in The Globe and Mail. Describing her experience while touring the building, Parkin said, “It was absolutely fascinating, and to think of all these people that work here and the brain power is kind of mind-boggling.”

Parkin was also appreciative of the building’s unique design.

“I love the concept of being able to see through to other areas, maybe other people’s equations or what they’re working on to augment what you’re already thinking about, or to go off in a new direction,” she commented. “What a beautiful place to let your mind conjure up things for our futures.”

The Stephen Hawking Centre was designed by Teeple Architects, who earned the prestigious job through a competition held at the Perimeter Institute.

Head architect Stephen Teeple explained, “The main goal is they wanted to create one, collaborative, science-research institute. So they didn’t want a new thing and an old thing, they wanted it completely interconnected.”

From the inside, the two buildings connect seamlessly, joined by angular stairways and slanted ceilings. Chalkboards line many of the walls; some were inscribed with welcoming messages and scientific facts for visitors, others were littered with lengthy equations and scattered ideas.

Teeple described the unique interactive spaces as “one of the most … interesting innovations” in the building’s design. The goal was to move beyond the typical isolation of office building floors to facilitate collaboration between scientists.

“When you’re walking on the bridges, you can see what’s happening from people above and below you, and say ‘hey, I might join that conversation, I might be part of that,’” said Teeple.

Other examples other interactive areas include the Black Hole Bistro, which sits over the reflecting pool, and the Sky Room, a meeting area designed with the discussion of “sky-high ideas” in mind.

Carrie Gilmour, a University of Waterloo employee who attended the Centre’s opening, idealized the institute as a place for “the smartest people in the world.” She continued, “We’re really fortunate to have them here, I think it’s a great presence.”

Gilmour was highly enthusiastic about having the opportunity to view the building’s interior.

“I think it’s incredible that they opened this up to the community to come through,” she raved. “I thought that they made things really simple and easy to understand, which was really great for the general public to just come in and learn these things.”

Greater outreach to the community can be expected in the upcoming years as the Perimeter Institute continues to grow “with that ultimate goal of making Canada the most scientifically literate country in the world,” said Dick.