Vancouver’s University of British Columbia campus occupies a strip of land surrounded on three sides by the waters of the Georgia Strait. On the landward side, the university is shielded from the city by a large natural reserve, an open tract that slips between the campus buildings, creating public spaces and an intermeshed pattern of woodland, sea and park, a natural setting linking the academic world with the nearby city.
The new Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences is located on the east side of one of the axes linking sea and natural reserve. Both thoroughfare and informal socialization area, this open space informs the new building, its materials, and the solids and voids of surfaces and volumes.
The natural woodland is the programme’s overriding reference. This is evident in the way the building stands off the ground, in the light shafts that take natural light to all interior levels, and in the fragmented building façade reminiscent of the branch system of trees, as in a Mondrian abstract canvas.
Just as a forest canopy creates shifting dappled light on the ground and the trees allow passage through the wood, so the stilts on which the building rests provide through-views to pedestrians. The sloped unrendered volumes of the auditoriums become part of this artificial forest landscape, home to its student population.
The variegated overhangs and recesses of the southwest facade of the new faculty building create a play of light and shadow similar to sunlight on leaves rustling in the wind. The small projecting modules hold different interior functions depending on their size and depth: office, meeting room, degree ceremony hall or small seminar room. In contrast, the compact, flush glazed surface on the north side shields the lecturers’ offices, their ceilings and walls clad in honey coloured timber.
Inside, the timber-lined ceilings of the ground floor are scored by long strip lighting while large light...
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