MacBain Community Centre, YMCA and Library
Niagara Falls, Ontario
Client : City of Niagara Falls / YMCA of Niagara / Niagara Falls Public Library
Area : 104,200 sf
Program : Aquatic Centre (4-Lane 25 Lap Pool, Leisure Pool, Water Slide, Changerooms), Gymnasium, Fitness Centre, Indoor Track, Branch Library, Child Care Centre, Multi-Purpose Community Rooms, Active Living Centre, Health Centre, Administrative and Support Spaces
Associated Architects : Chapman Murray Architects
Located on the outskirts of Niagara Falls, Ontario, MacBain Community Centre is a hybrid public facility combining the programs of multiple institutions, unifying them within a single coherent form.
Its site is central to an underserviced area along the QEW corridor; it has few immediate neighbours in an area built up with single-family homes, so it is accessed almost entirely by vehicle. The site itself began as a 37-acre brownfield, formerly a dump site for rock from turn-of-the-century canal excavations. The project set out to restore the original site conditions—including natural drainage patterns—and replant the north end of the property as parkland.
The broad two-storey building occupies a rectangular footprint. Intersecting planes are kept to a minimum to optimize the efficiency of the building envelope; each elevation is activated by windows and setbacks protected by the overhanging roofline. This includes a large sheltered entrance veranda facing the parking lot to the west, framed in white brick and accented with multicoloured mosaic tile, and visually connected to the interior by a full-height curtain wall.
The 106,000-square-foot program includes a YMCA with a full aquatics centre, triple gymnasium with track, and fitness studios, as well as a branch of the local library system, municipal offices for the local chapter of Big Brothers / Big Sisters and the town’s Department of Community Services, multipurpose rooms, private healthcare providers, a daycare centre, seniors centre, and café.
These amenities are organized around a continuous central core containing the largest public halls—the aquatics hall and gymnasia—and girded by the remaining spaces, with municipal functions to the west and institutional YMCA to the east. In this arrangement, all project partners share access to the central core, which has direct views onto landscapes to the north and south. The central core is further lit by a series of elongated skylights lined up from north to south, parallel to one another and shielded behind translucent polycarbonate panels. A glazed corridor along the eastern elevation provides access to the YMCA’s controlled areas and admits daylight deeper into the building—to enclosed change rooms on the first floor and fitness studio on the second.
This plan allows for mutual support between tenants, which has produced both cultural and operational benefits, including more efficient staffing and energy savings. By serving as a centralized attractor, the Centre has tripled YMCA memberships and helped the library to become one of the busiest in its system.