The Prairie Wood Design Awards are back this month and I am eager to find out which projects will win. The versatility and natural look of wood make it a beautiful building material. It is exciting to see so many stunning projects in the prairie provinces. While we wait on the real winners to be revealed, I have reviewed the nominations and selected my favourites below.


Category: Residential

Building: Montreal House

Location: Calgary, Alberta

Designer: Sturgess Architecture

Photography: Robert Lemermeyer Photography

I always struggle with the residential category because I love looking at nice houses, and there were so many beautiful homes nominated. I chose this one because it stood out as innovative and unusual—like something you’d find in a design magazine. A bridge leads to the entrance of this house, protecting the roots of the large spruce trees which provide shade and privacy for the expansive front windows. Other features of this home that I love: the courtyard, outdoor cooking space, and hanging bedrooms—that’s right, the children’s bedrooms appear to be suspended in midair.



Category: Interior

Building: Nearctic Property Group Head Office

Location: Edmonton, Alberta

Designer: GEC Architecture

Photography: Doublespace Photography

While I love exposed wood in a building, I’ve seen some offices where too much wood paneling on the walls looks less than stylish. This space is an exception, with a tasteful balance of wood and other materials. Fun fact: the designers expertly used glue-laminated timber to reduce noise transfer into the office space. I’m also a sucker for living walls, and the staircase in this office features one. A splash of nature can brighten up any workspace.



Category: Commercial

Building: RAW:Wasagaming

Location: Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba

Designer: AUX: Projects

Photography: Simeon Rusnak Photography

These RAW projects are just the coolest. Last year I was so impressed by the innovative nature of RAW:almond and RAW:Gimli and I’m thrilled to see another one of these “temporary tasting rooms”, this time in Wasagaming. I love the minimal footprint philosophy of the designers, using materials from the region that can be re-purposed once the pop-up closes at the end of the season. Now I’m just waiting for RAW to come to Alberta.



Category: Institutional

Building: TD Outdoor Learning Centre

Location: Calgary, Alberta

Designer: O2 Planning + Design Inc.

Photography: Tree Construction

I usually pick schools in the institutional category because I love seeing natural materials in places of learning. While this isn’t a school, this three-season facility is still a space where people of all ages come to learn. And it’s outside! Studies continue to demonstrate that spending time outside is good for your mental and physical health. Bonus: using wood for this structure allowed much of the material to be prefabricated off-site, reducing disruption to recreationalists and wildlife.



Category: Recreational

Building: Shane Homes YMCA at Rocky Ridge

Location: Calgary, Alberta

Designer: GEC Architecture

Photography: Adam Mørk Architectural Photography

Having spent much of my recreational time in YMCAs throughout my life, I have many fond memories of these facilities. Two of my favourite things about YMCAs: First, they contain abundant amenities including pools, gymnasiums, tracks, and many even have squash courts, making it easy to keep exercise interesting. And second, they are unpretentious—people of all walks of life and fitness levels are made to feel welcome. While I haven’t been to this particular Y, it looks absolutely gorgeous. I particularly appreciate the fish-shaped window in the gymnasium. Just knowing I could spend time in this pretty building would make me less likely to skip a workout!



While I like to think that I have an eye for beauty, I have have absolutely no design credentials. Stay tuned for the verdict from the panel of real design experts, coming Tuesday, February 12.

To learn more or get tickets to the awards gala, visit