The Prairie Wood Design Awards Gala is approaching and several beautiful wood structures have been nominated for awards.

There are four building categories and altogether 42 nominations, and I have looked through all of them. Although I’m not actually on the jury, I thought I’d pick my favourites anyway. It was really tough to choose just one favourite in each category because there have been so many stunning buildings nominated for awards. After much deliberation, I have chosen my picks for each category:

Category: Commercial and Institutional

Building: Arcola Community School

Location: Regina, Saskatchewan

Designer: P3Architecture

I have to choose Arcola School as my pick for the Commercial and Institutional category because it makes me happy to see so much innovation going into the design of a school. This building was designed to use sun exposure for both light and passive heating, as well as cedar louvres and deep soffits (I didn’t know what these were, either) for shade in the warm months. The school also features an indoor boreal forest with “living walls”, as well as an outdoor learning environment. There is even a blue winding pathway through the school that mimics a river. A study at the University of British Columbia suggests that having visible wood and plants in work spaces lowers stress levels for those working in that space. What better place to get these benefits than in a school?

Photographs courtesy of P3Architecture Partnership


Category: Interior Wood Showcase

Building: House on the Ridge

Location: Calgary, Alberta

Designer: Shugarman Architecture

I chose this house for the Interior Wood Showcase category because I love its modern wood design. Wood is a very versatile material; it can look rustic and cozy, or modern and sleek. In this case, Shugarman Architecture has definitely proven that wood designs can look very current.

Photographs courtesy of Ovatio


Category: Municipal and Recreational

Building: Elevation Place

Location: Canmore, Alberta

Designer: Gibbs Gage Architects

I selected Elevation Place as my favourite in the Municipal and Recreational category for a few reasons. First of all, it is an incredible facility, offering an aquatics centre, a climbing gym, a library, a fitness centre, a community art gallery, among other fun and useful amenities. Not only is this place functional, but it also incorporates lots of beautiful wood into its design. And like the aforementioned University of British Columbia study states, surrounding oneself with wood lowers stress. That combined with the exercising, reading, and art-viewing available at Elevation Place, I bet a person would feel very relieved of stress after a visit to this facility. And I forgot to mention, it’s surrounded by mountains!

Photographs courtesy of Caminus.


Category: Residential

Building: Assiniboine House

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba

Designer: Helliwell + Smith Blue Sky Architecture

I love this design because it really showcases how beautiful (and modern!) a building can look when it is built mostly with wood. It also demonstrates the flexibility of wood as a building material. Wood houses don’t have to look like log cabins. They can have curves and twists… and really cool stair cases (see photographs below). The shape of this house reminds me of the curvy, whimsical houses you might find in a Dr. Seuss book, and I would love to go inside and explore. 

Photographs courtesy of gerry kopelow/photographics inc. and Blue Sky Architecture. 


These may be my favourites, but that doesn’t mean that these will be the winning designs. Winners will be announced at the Prairie Wood Design Awards Gala on November 27.