Dining with the Army

Photo: Brenda Liu
Photo: Brenda Liu

Part of a large masterplan to create a pedestrian campus at the Canadian Forces Base in Borden, Ontario, the Curtiss Kitchen and Dining Facility is one of two new dining facilities intended to not only replace the dozen or so disparate ones currently being used at the base, but also flip the traditional perceptions of an army cafeteria. With a capacity to seat 1,500 military personnel per meal, 750 at a time in two sittings, and an intuitive programmatic layout, the dining facility demonstrates that utilitarian spaces can also be interesting and inviting.

Designed by ZAS Architects and Jean-Christian Koch Architecte in joint venture, the facility’s program includes a dining hall, kitchen facilities and office areas, as well as washrooms and first aid facilities for the adjacent soccer pitches. The design strategy focused on providing a pleasant, efficient and enduring building with plenty of natural light and optimized interior traffic flow. The building’s plan, forms, colours and materials are all used to convey an intuitive understanding of path and use – diners who have never entered the building are naturally brought through the facility in a loop, completing it with no cross-circulation.

It’s most distinctive feature is the dramatic glue laminated tree-like columns and arches. These structural elements, along with the sweeping views of the natural context, provide diners with a comfortable and peaceful environment for meals – a welcome respite in an otherwise grueling schedule.

While military facilities are often associated with drab utilitarian complexes, the Curtiss Kitchen and Dining Facility reflects a shifting direction in Canada’s military architecture, one that is more humane and rewarding for service men and women.

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