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Shim-Sutcliffe Architects

Brigitte Shim and her partner Howard Sutcliffe have been working together since the mid 1980s, crafting furniture and architecture to create useful and habitable works of art. They established their modest office in Toronto in 1994, and have won acclaim for their houses and a few larger buildings. Materiality and meticulous detailing are the hallmarks of their practice and both qualities enrich two projects they recently completed on their home ground. The Wong Dai Sin Temple is located on a busy highway in Markham, a city on the edge of Toronto. It was commissioned by the Fung Loy Kok Institute of Taoism, a multi-racial congregation that had outgrown their temporary meeting spaces. The local planning authority recommended Shim-Sutcliffe Architects after an earlier proposal for the site was rejected. “This was the client’s first ground-up building in the city and initially they intended merely to replace an existing house with a room where they could practice tai chi,” explains Sutcliffe. “Because it’s a religious institution they had to provide more parking than they actually needed and so we elevated the main space to free up most of the site for cars. The project was well along in the planning process when the client decided that the main space should be a temple, which made it more interesting for us.” The basic design remained unchanged. A post-tensioned concrete slab is cantilevered 10.2 m to the west from seven poured concrete piers tied to a robust raft foundation. Stairs and an elevator access the upper level and the floor slab is partly counterbalanced by a 5.2 m cantilever to the east. Planes of Cor-ten steel are fanned out to the north and south, giving the concrete box a feeling of openness, and shading the interior while pulling in shafts of natural light. The sheltered area below the main cantilever was paved and kept car-free for regular sessions of tai chi, whose physical gestures are echoed in the boldly...

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