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2016 MCHAP

Shooting Range in Ontario

Magma Architecture

Cookstown, Canada

June 2015


Martin Ostermann/magma architecture


Leon Higgins/Mott MacDonald Canada Ltd (Lead Consultant) Zenon Radewych/WZMH Architects (Architect of Record/Contact Architect) Wayne E. Arendse (Ballistic Consultant) Bryce Miranda/dtah (Landscape Architect) Daniel Polidoro/Maram Building Corporation (Contractor)


Toronto Organizing Committee for the 2015 Pan American and Parapan American Games (TO2015)


Christie Mills


Shooting ranges are often not considered as architectural tasks and most of them have – at best – industrial appearances. With our London 2012 Olympic Shooting Ranges we have set the standard and our aim was to create a stunning and convincing design in Canada. The jagged upper edge of the outer perimeter wall is the most noticeable design feature of the building and easily visible from afar. The shape is reminiscent of the Canadian national emblem: the maple leaf. But behind the zigzagging form lays a firm technical rationale: it was driven by geometrical investigation into all possible ballistic trajectories. Any excess planes not required to contain projectiles were cut away from the façade resulting in the dynamic and distinctive outer appearance of the building and a high efficiency. The façade is constructed from low-priced and widely used H2 utility poles with an Indian summer orange stain. Using regionally sourced materials and locally available construction skills was another strategy to match the challengingly slim budget for the project. The shooting facility is enclosed to control air movement for the air pistol and rifle event but incorporates many naturally-ventilated spaces such that, mechanical systems are no longer required. This reduction of operational energy demand has resulted in significant energy savings. The result of this design strategy is an equally visually striking and technically capable and sustainable building.


The building is an addition to the Toronto International Trap & Skeet Club in the forest near Cookstown, Ontario, approximately mid-way between Lake Ontario and the Georgian Bay. The landscape is rural, dominated by agriculture and forests. The main function of a shooting range is to prevent bullets from exiting the venue. The client defined the project parameters on the assumption that the rural surroundings would allow to use the terrain as the containment for ballistic sports rather than full size walls to enclose the ranges. Because of dwellings in the potential reach of the range this idea proved unviable, but no adjustment of the budget was made. Thereby the biggest challenge and driver of the project became to match the extremely low budget. The Pan Am Games had to provide facilities for 10, 25 and 50 m shooting. The three ranges were collapsed into one building to minimize construction works. The central idea was to make maximum use of the facades whilst minimizing their area as much as possible. Two 65 m long façades enclose the 25 and 50 m outdoor shooting lanes and form the enclosure for a 10 m shooting range hovering above the firing line of the ranges below. The floor of the 10m range forms a canopy above the shooters preventing projectiles from escaping above. All walls were tested to identify the smallest area needed to fulfil the requirements. The ranges cover a total area of 5.500 m². To enable high frequency wheelchair accessibility expected for the Para Pan Am Games the ground floor is connected to the first floor by an outdoor ramp.


Shooting is a sport in which the results and progress of the competition are hardly visible to the eye of the spectator. The competitions feel almost inverted in relation to other athletic sports. Rather than loud cheering culminating towards the finish line spectators are asked to be absolutely silent while the shooters concentrate to perform their slow and controlled movements. This atmosphere of tension puts the surrounding space in focus and makes the spatial design an intrinsic part of the experience of the event. For reasons of safety shooting ranges are often hidden away in very remote locations and little effort is put into creating an attractive architectural environment. Making a virtue of necessity we have succeeded in creating a visually inspiring surrounding for a memorable event and architecturally worthwhile building that the shooting community and the locals value highly. It will help the sport gain popularity whilst providing excellent training facilities for the professionals. Susan Verdier, technical director of the Shooting Federation of Canada and the Canada Shooting Team leader, says: "These games have left us with a fantastic legacy, which we've not had before. This Pan Am shooting Centre is absolutely fabulous for us." Environmentally the venue has a distinctive profile which incorporates green-friendly materials such as timber to blend in harmoniously with its surroundings. By using timber and other renewable materials we ensured that the venue is non-obtrusive and sustainable. Acoustically we found solutions that minimize noise levels and impact on surrounding dwellings while complying with local noise by-law regulations.

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