The Science & Technology Building’s bold cantilevered form creates an iconic gateway into Langara College’s Vancouver main campus. Creating the college’s first consolidated home for its science programs, the design fosters community through the creation of a variety of social and study spaces and a focus on visual and physical interconnectivity.
PROGRAM & CONTEXT: Science labs and classrooms are located on the upper three levels, while the lower levels consolidate essential student services at the main entry to the campus, together with lounges, study and meeting spaces, computer labs, and an event space. Feature stairs in the main atrium connect with a dramatic multi-storey student lounge on the upper levels. The atrium ties directly into the circulation spine of the adjacent existing Library building, enhancing the college’s intuitively navigable indoor circulation network.
Responding to a constrained site and the desire to maintain existing, well-used outdoor spaces and important sight lines, the building’s mass was shifted west by hovering the upper floors over the college’s main entrance driveway. The resulting cantilever frames of the entrance to the campus, presenting an exciting image fitting of the college’s forward thinking educational vision. The landmark building is now marks the primary entrance to the campus by vehicle and on foot from nearby light rail and bus transit systems.
DESIGN PRINCIPLES: The fundamental goals of the project were to enhance the student experience by providing a variety of exciting environments for student collaboration and enhance the image of the college within the surrounding city. Drawing inspiration from Gottfried Semper’s theories of art form and core form, the building exhibits structural bravado, either by displaying structural steel directly or suggesting its form behind veils of cladding and finishes. The experience of the structure is central to the design: an oculus punctures the three stories of the building’s dramatic 16 M cantilever; intumescent-painted structural steel is revealed in the lobbies and display cases; and interior plasterboard walls sculpturally express underlying structural members.
Visual and physical interconnectivity are essential to the experience of the building. An aluminum louvre system unifies the upper three levers as a singular, sculptural volume. Developed especially for this project, the louver system forms a veil that choreographs views to campus, the surrounding community and the distant North Shore Mountains while maximizing useful natural light. The ‘Vortex Lounge’, a series of informal study spaces and an open stair wrapped around the three-level oculus, presents student activity as the face of the college. Circulation through the building is animated by views across multi-storey voids to different levels, and, wherever possible, into teaching spaces. Highly visible circulation elements and lounge spaces on mid-levels animate public spaces and mitigate the separation of stacked programs on separate floors, naturally promoting interaction among departments and encouraging the use of stairs over elevators.
TECHNICAL PRINCIPLES: The building’s strict programmatic requirements necessitated a footprint of a certain size, forcing the building to contort around the main entry roadway into the campus. Further complicating the design was the presence of a geothermal field immediately across the roadway, making it impossible to introduce a row of perimeter columns to support the upper floors. After extensive cost analysis, it was determined that a cantilevered solution would be the most efficient way to ameliorate the difficult site parameters. The 16.1 M cantilever extends the building over the entry roadway, essentially creating a site where none had existed before.
This ambitious structural solution was only achievable within the budgetary constraints of the project through the implementation of a highly ordered and efficient structural system. The building’s upper floors consist of a series of five trusses, three stories tall and 47.5 M long, providing the adequate back-span for the cantilever. Interior space planning was painstakingly coordinated around large diagonal braces and gusset plate connections. Additional structural challenges were involved due to the building’s location within a seismically active zone. Foundations along the ‘fulcrum’ line for example, were designed for roughly the equivalent load of a 40 storey tower.
Designed to LEED Gold standards, detailing focused on creating a thermally efficient building envelope. The upper three floors are clad in a cost-effective corrugated metal rain screen, supported by thermally broken facade clips and obscured by a shroud of extruded aluminum louvers. The ‘Sculpture Wall’ louver system provides solar shading while serving to visually unify the dramatically cantilevered upper floors into singular iconic volume. Louver density and orientations were carefully coordinated with window placements. The second storey of the building is clad with a Polycarbonate Wall Panel system filled with translucent insulation, providing diffuse daylighting while achieving exceptional thermal performance. High-albedo roofs were used to improve the building’s overall energy performance.
The mechanical system incorporates the Thermenex energy management system, an innovative locally designed energy recovery and transfer system in which waste heat is captured from building areas requiring cooling and selectively redistributed to mechanical systems requiring heat energy. Particularly significant given the high energy use of a lab building, the system dramatically reduces overall energy consumption, operating costs and greenhouse gas emissions. The building further reduces the need for mechanical systems by using stack effect in the six-storey lightwell for return air flow. The Thermenex system then captures the heat at the roof and redistributes it where needed.
Teeple Architects was founded in 1989 in Toronto and has built a reputation for design leadership and technical excellence through a range of institutional, commercial and residential projects. Its projects are conceptually and practically rooted in the unique aspirations of each client and have been recognized for responding creatively and effectively to the influences of site, climate, socio-cultural context, and budget. The firm’s work has been honoured with awards for design excellence and sustainability on the local, national and international levels, including six Governor General’s Medals for Architecture (Canada’s highest architectural honour) and an International Holcim Award.
Proscenium Architecture + Interiors began in 1996 in Vancouver as an architectural and interior design firm focused on the planning and design of facilities for the arts. Today, it is a full service firm recognized as a leading designer of community and cultural facilities across western Canada.
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