Located 175 km east of Toronto on the Trent River is Batawa, a sustainable satellite town adapted to 21st-century living

Batawa was set up by the Bata Shoe Company as a planned community for their manufacturing facility, which was relocated to Canada at the beginning of World War II.

The late Sonja Bata, daughter-in-law of Bata Shoe Company founder Tomáš Baťa, envisioned Batawa as a model community for social and environmental sustainability. Central to this vision for the town was the conversion of Batawa’s shoe factory into a contemporary space, with a light environmental footprint and a strong social mandate.

The present-day renovated building is a model of sustainable architecture and is currently a mixed-use residential, commercial and community building.Bata Shoe Company architectureScott NorsworthyThe renovation was done by Dubbeldam Architecture + Design (collaborating design architect) and BDP Quadrangle (architect of record) and is fully in alignment with Sonja Bata’s imagining of the space.

While the factory retains the original 1939 concrete structure—saving close to 80 percent of the embodied carbon from the original building—it revitalizes its modernist heritage through new materials and striking design elements.

The façade features new glazing and brick cladding that echo the factory’s original appearance, with the addition of cantilevered balconies throughout. On the main level, new terrazzo flooring in the public spaces and on the stair treads speaks to the vintage of the building and ensures durability for a high-traffic area.Bata Shoe Company insideScott NorsworthyThe interior material palette is rich in colour and warmth. Wood panels connect the various spaces together, from the entrance canopy and lobby ceiling to the upper floor elevator lobbies. On the upper residential levels, the unique lighting layout provides a focal point to divert the eye from the long double-loaded corridor.

In keeping with Sonja Bata’s sustainable vision, the new Bata Shoe Factory boasts a strong integration of sustainable energy systems. The building’s heating and cooling systems are powered entirely through a geothermal energy source comprised of 63 holes drilled to a depth of 600 feet under the parking area.

Sustainable approaches work in conjunction with passive strategies, including an airtight building envelope and operable windows. Any new materials were selected to be as sustainable as possible, with long lifespans, durability and eco-friendly characteristics, right down to the carpet tiles made from recycled fishing nets and low VOC finishes.

According to Dubbeldam Architecture + Design’s principal Heather Dubbeldam, “This project is a model for environmental and social sustainability and increased housing density in a rural setting with the lightest impact on the environment.

The renovated factory now stands to once again become a beacon within the town, focused on a sustainable future.”