Baird Sampson Neuert Architects
Founded by George Baird in 1972, Barry Sampson and Jon Neuert joined the firm as partners in 1981 and 1996, respectively. Quickly developing a reputation for design excellence, the firm grew its national profile as an early developer of landmark urban design projects, including a winning design for Bay Adelaide Park, which today the firm considers as its launching pad in the industry.
In its early years, the company frequently entered design competitions across Canada and gained notoriety for its provocative responses to urban context.
Baird Sampson Neuert projects are distinctly different. Its hallmark and preference is unique design projects which integrate architecture and landscape with a keen interest in sustainability.
“We pride ourselves on being research-oriented and as a result we tend to have more success getting unusual projects than we do getting mainstream projects,” Sampson told The Canadian Business Journal. “You see fairly diverse projects and work that tends to be technically challenging.”
The company’s work includes the Niagara Parks Commission Butterfly Conservatory, one of the firm’s earlier projects, which is today realized as the largest butterfly conservatory in North America and among Baird Sampson Neuert’s most significant projects to date. Situated on the grounds of the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens, the Niagara Parks Commission Butterfly Conservatory is home to more than 2,000 colourful tropical butterflies experienced within a lush mountainous terrain in the 11,000 square foot display house, and is geared to educate and entertain visitors about the habitat and lifecycle of the species.
“It’s also the most northerly butterfly conservatory, so there was a lot of anxiety over whether it would work,” Sampson commented. “I would argue that it is the best functioning butterfly conservatory in North America.”
Several other Baird Sampson Neuert projects have been recognized in the urban design category, including Thomas L. Wells Public School, a Toronto District School Board public school that was a prototype green school and the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certified school in Canada.
Thomas L. Wells Public School is a model of green design and high performance that integrates architecture with environmental conservation and design to encourage student engagement. The project received several design and technical awards, including a prestigious American Institute of Architects’ Honor award of sustainability, a recognition not typically given to school projects.
Baird Sampson Neuert has been involved with several public sector and education based projects, including a current design for major expansion to the Schulich School of Business at York University. At the University of Toronto, Baird Sampson Neuert has completed a number of significant works including the Joan Foley Hall student residence at its Scarborough campus. Similarly noted for its enhanced landscape and environmental performance, the Erindale Hall at the Mississauga campus received the Governor General’s Medal in Architecture.
Baird Sampson Neuert was named the winner of an invited architectural competition for the Old Post Office Plaza in St. Louis. The firm’s design creates a unique three dimensional terrain within a small urban space that incorporates public art with the surrounding urban environment while also paying tribute to its adjacent historic post office. A user-friendly design build, the project will play a key role in the revitalization of downtown St. Louis, Mo.
Another development, the Brian C. Nevin Welcome Center at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., enhances visitor experience of the historic botanical garden site and is designed to advance the environmental stewardship education and leadership role of Cornell Plantations. Recognized for its environmental sustainability, the project has received numerous design awards in the U.S. and Canada as well as LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
“We’ve always been very interested in bioclimatic design and sustainability, and that’s been an ongoing area of investigation and development,” Sampson explained. “To a large extent, our expertise began with the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory, which hybridized commercial building systems with technology that is used in the greenhouse industry to maximize climate responsive performance and is typically not used in conventional buildings. We learned a lot from that, which we then transferred to our other projects, mostly notably the Thomas L. Wells Public School.
“One reason for the firm’s interest in urban design is a shared interest on the part of the partners in the public realm. We’ve been quite interested in the role of public space in contributing to the vitality and congeniality of public life.”
Baird Sampson Neuert’s portfolio of work characterizes the integration of landscape with architecture, often summarized in public space projects. As a pioneer of architectural sustainability, Baird Sampson Neuert continues to advance innovative work in this area, and recognizes that it is the synthesis of sustainability, creativity, and originality that distinguishes the firm from the mainstream.