Glass Facades in Kingston, Ontario: A Photo Essay

Updated on September 18, 2017
Simon Lam profile image

Simon's background is in biomedical and health science. He also writes about fashion, nature, and photography.

Fascination With Glass

During my graduate studies, I developed a love for architecture. I would often go to the library and look through architecture books for exciting new buildings and skyscrapers. What I particularly loved was glass. Seeing it on buildings made me excited and euphoric. I associate it with high class, elegance, and a touch of formality. Montreal, where I went to school, was a wonderful city for glass-encased buildings. They had many beautiful glass facades.

A few years later I moved back to Kingston, my hometown. Kingston is nicknamed the "Limestone City." This moniker is quite accurate as there are numerous historic buildings made of limestone. Our famous City Hall is constructed of limestone. Kingston Penitentiary, Fort Henry, the Frontenac County Court House, the former Rockwood Insane Asylum and numerous military buildings are also made of limestone. Even new buildings are frequently made of limestone or incorporate it somehow to keep a consistent look throughout the city.

The other major construction material is brick. Many buildings in Kingston are made of brick including the Woolen Mill, Hotel Frontenac, and Hendry House. Brick is still a relatively popular material used in construction today.

Extensive use of glass, however, is less common in Kingston. There are only a handful of buildings with a glass facade. We'll take a look at these buildings in the following photo essay.

Isabel Bader Centre

The Isabel Bader Centre is a Queen's University facility that houses a large performance hall, studio theatre, film screening room, rehearsal hall, and an arts and media lab. Exteriorly, it is mainly made of glass and steel. This gorgeous and modern building was completed in 2014. The Isabel was designed by N45 and Oslo's Snøhetta architects. I love the large expanse of glass overlooking Lake Ontario.

What I immediately love about the photo below, is the regular rhythm of the glass panels. We can see the repeated glass panels that creates this rhythm, and also the repeated vertical lines, and the small square steel structure between each glass panel.

The warm yellow-orange light inside adds a nice touch to the photo. The grey colour of the glass and the steel are very cold. The interior light acts like a fire that warms the entire structure.

There is a flaw in this photo. Overall, it emanates a very gloomy mood. Most of the photo is a dreary grey. When we look at this photo, we get a feeling of unhappiness.

The Isabel

The Isabel by Lake Ontario
The Isabel by Lake Ontario | Source


Also belonging to Queen's University, the Gastrointestinal Diseases Research Unit (GIDRU) houses lab space and offices for researchers focused on diseases of the digestive system. It was completed in 2006. There is a small all glass facade in the front of the building.

In the photo below, we can see the geometric shapes that dominate the glass facade. There are rectangles, and squares all neatly fit together to form this very interesting design. I just wished that this pattern could have been more extensive, covering the entire side of the building.


A small glass facade of GIDRU
A small glass facade of GIDRU | Source

David C. Smith House

The David C. Smith House Residence is another building on Queen's University. It is a mixed gender residence for Upper Year Students. It was opened in 2015. This residence was named for a former Principal Dr. David C. Smith, who was the Principal of Queen's from 1984 – 1994. Brick, a major material in Kingston, is seen on the exterior of this building. This modern residence also has a small glass facade facing St. Lawrence Ave.

The photo below of the glass facade of this residence shows the repeated pattern of the glass panels. We have a row of long rectangular glass topped off by a smaller and shorter rectangular cap. This pattern is repeated again, stacking itself on top of each row. It creates a very predictable and pleasing pattern.

The only thing I do not like about this photo is the street lamp that is reflected on the glass. It is a distraction and an eye sore.

David C. Smith House

Glass Facade on David C. Smith House
Glass Facade on David C. Smith House | Source

School of Medicine

The last building on Queen's University with a glass facade is the School of Medicine. It was completed in 2011. To be consistent with other buildings on campus and in Kingston, this building was made of limestone and glass. The architects who designed this building were Diamond Schmitt Architects in association with Shoalts and Zaback Architects. This building features a small glass facade facing Stuart Street.

We can see in the photo below that the design of the glass panels is similar to the one on David C. Smith House. There is a row of long rectangular glass toped off with a smaller and shorter rectangular piece. The rows then repeat themselves. It appears like this is a common design.

I'm not a fan of the limestone here. It seems like there is a mismatch of styles. Modern glass clashing with old-style limestone.

School of Medicine

Glass Exterior of the School of Medicine
Glass Exterior of the School of Medicine | Source


The final building that we will look at is the recently completed Scotiabank in downtown Kingston. This building is the home of the Canadian bank, Scotiabank. It too has a touch of limestone in its exterior. Facing Wellington Street is a large beautiful glass facade.

We can see in the photo below that there is nearly floor to ceiling glass coverage. The glass panel design is also similar to the ones on Queen's University campus, featuring long and then short glass panels. I love the repeating pattern of this glass design and the repetition of geometric shapes. I also like the nice touch of colour imparted by the red structure on the left.


Glass Facade of Scotiabank
Glass Facade of Scotiabank | Source

More Glass in the Future

What I have learned in creating this photo essay is that there is a common glass design used in many buildings. The pattern of long and then short glass panels seems to be very popular. I think its greatest appeal is its predictability and simplicity.

Overall, many of the new building in the city are including glass in their designs and construction. Although their role is small in most building, they are becoming more common. Perhaps we will see more of it in the future.

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