NORR Limited

Architects, engineers and planners all in one covering Canada coast to coast and far corners of the globe
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
John Carioti

Since 1938, NORR Limited has provided integrated design and consulting services, combining architecture, engineering and planning in one trusted name, spanning Canada, the United States, the UK and even the Middle East. The firm’s designs and projects are widely acclaimed and many are major landmarks such as the Toronto City Hall, the downtown Ottawa VIA Rail Station, the Peace Bridge Border Crossing, the Simcoe Place Tower and the Emirates Towers in Dubai.

Full-service from the start

“NORR was established in 1938 by John B. Parkin and we have a long history of architecture, engineering and planning,” says Silvio Baldassarra, president of NORR Canada, who joined the firm as a project manager in 1985. “NORR has been full service from the start. Today, more firms are offering these types of services as one, in-house, but if you go back to the late 1930s, there were very few firms in Canada doing what we do.”

Today, NORR serves all major project sectors – commercial, education, government, justice, sports, recreation, transportation and hospitality. “Our reputation really started to proliferate in the late 1960s and early 1970s,” recounts Baldassarra. “We landed some major projects including the original Terminal One and Terminal Two at Toronto Pearson International Airport, the new Toronto City Hall and the original Department of National Defence Building in Ottawa.”

After the sluggish 1990s, business has since picked up for NORR and the company has experienced global growth. “In the last 15 years, we’ve ramped up and established offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the UAE, spurred by the development of the Le Royal Meridian Hotel, followed by other notable projects in the Middle East such as: National Bank of Dubai, Emirates Towers, Shangri-La Hotel, Atlantis the Palm and the major undertaking as the architect of record on the Burj Khalifa, currently the world’s tallest building.”

Emaar Properties selected NORR to supervise the structure’s architecture and design coordination during construction. NORR’s crews analyzed every aspect of the architectural design to ensure compliance with design intent by SOM and buildability and code compliance, from reviewing mock-ups to samples and technical drawings to manufacturer’s data and advising the client on a variety of complex construction issues.

Today NORR has six offices throughout Canada: Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Toronto, Kingston and Ottawa. “Toronto is our main office and was the original office,” details Baldassarra. “All in all we have approximately 400 employees in North America and with eight offices in the UK, three offices in the U.S. and two offices in the UAE. We have a total of 900 staff worldwide.”

Serving justice

The firm is adept in nearly all sectors, but NORR has made a name in the niche of judicial facilities in Canada. “We have a really solid record on P3s,” says Baldassarra. “In the last seven years we’ve gone after about 16 projects and we’ve won nine, including the major Calgary Courts, which is the largest Courthouse in Canada.”

All in all, NORR does more courthouse projects than any architect in Canada with 52 separate courthouse projects in the last decade. In conjunction with Infrastructure Ontario, a crown agency responsible for leading and delivering projects for the Government of Ontario, NORR completed the design and restoration of the expanded Elgin County Courthouse and the Waterloo Consolidated Courthouse, one of the largest courthouses in Ontario.

For the Elgin County Courthouse NORR provided courthouse planning, architecture and interior design services for the LEED-Silver project. The scope involved the restoration of the 31,000-square-foot existing courthouse, built before confederation in 1852, and a one-story Land Registry Office that was completed in 1874, now home of the Elgin County Law Association.

“We also recently opened a ceremonial space for the government, the Sir John A. Macdonald Building and are working on the completion of 180 Wellington, the temporary location for the House of Commons, while the Parliament Buildings undergo restoration” says Baldassarra. “This $300 million building will house offices of the members of the House of Commons, 10 committee rooms for government and is set to open in 2016.”

A cross-border landmark

Considered as one of the greatest gateways between the U.S. and Canada the Canadian Plaza at the Peace Bridge Border Crossing welcomes more than 5 million cars and 1.5 million trucks annually. The crossing, connecting Buffalo, New York, to Fort Erie, Ontario supports some $30 billion in cross-border commercial activity every year.

“Our design of the Canadian Plaza has won 12 design awards, including some from the American Institute of Architects,” notes Baldassarra. “It’s truly a landmark building because it’s the first thing you see as you cross into Canada.”

The customs and immigration building design was inspired by an upside down canoe-like wood canopy structure. NORR’s in-house design team took into consideration the need for efficient traffic flow and movement with attention to maintaining complete operation of the existing crossing throughout construction phases.

Aquatics and the Field House legacy

The most recent P3 project NORR has designed and is recognized throughout the world for, is the CIBC Pan Am and Parapan Am Aquatics Centre and Field House, located at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus. This is the largest newly constructed sport facility for the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games.

Upon conclusion of the games, the facility will serve a new purpose, as a place for the University of Toronto students and the surrounding community and the Canadian Centre for High Performance Sports. Key components include: two internationally sanctioned 10-lane, 50-metre pools with movable bulkheads; a 5-metre deep diving tank with various length platforms; a dry-land diver training facility and a seating capacity of approximately 6,000.

“The centre was used for swimming and diving and performed flawlessly for the Pan Am Games, where athletes set records in the state-of-the-art facility,” adds Baldassarra.

East to west, north to south, NORR Limited is busy across Canada – in nearly all major cities; not to mention ongoing projects in the UK and the Middle East. As a global leader, NORR commemorates 77 years of award-winning in-house architecture, engineering, design and planning services.

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