Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Centre for Drug Research and Development

PROJECT Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Centre for Drug Research and Development, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia
ARCHITECTS Saucier + Perrotte Architectes/Hughes Condon Marler Architects
PHOTOS Marc Cramer

A state-of-the-art facility, the new building houses the UBC Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences and the Centre for Drug Research and Development. Critical to the design is the ability to go beyond the norm to promote enjoyable, liveable and sustainable spaces for research, learning and the exchange of ideas. Its architectural expression gives the building a striking presence on campus, and when coupled with the project’s technological functionality, the facility becomes a new cutting-edge part of the UBC landscape. Located on the corner of Wesbrook Mall and Agronomy Road, the 27,311-square-metre six-storey building is situated on a two-hectare site. Functioning architecturally as an active gateway or entry point into the academic core, the building engages the community with a ground floor that is transparent, inviting and one that will at the public level openly showcase the research taking place within.

To successfully contribute to UBC’s legacy of architecture and pharmaceutical research, the design has led to a signature building, a standard for future education and high-level research buildings in Canada and abroad. The facility provides spaces for the exchange of ideas and research–for both intellectual and social interaction. Its unconventional layout affords students and researchers opportunities that traditional university buildings have not.

Historically, plants and vegetation have played an essential role in the development of drugs and medicine. The building’s initial concept stems from the idea of two trees whose branch systems fuse and intertwine to form a canopy of foliage floating above the ground. As this organic network is abstracted, it is given tectonic manifestation, and the architecture takes on a more geometric form. 

The architectural definition of this idea of a root system growing over time into an extensive network of branches thereby serves as an allegory for the development of modern medicine and provides the underpinning of the overall building organization. The tree “trunks” serve as the structural basis of the building; different portions of program (public and private) are suspended from them as a broad canopy. As the “roots” emerge from the ground plane, they house program such as the building’s two main auditoriums, and they develop into the “trunks” which become atria filled with abundant natural light that permeates the adjacent spaces such as laboratories and offices.

The conceptual pixellation of the tree canopy becomes a model for the façade development, demonstrating how the organic form of foliage can be transformed into a Cartesian geometry. Incorporated on the ground level is an exhibition space that can be navigated fluidly as a space of encounter for faculty, researchers, students and the public. Upstairs is another exhibition zone that is dedicated to the history of medicine and the profession.

The building is in the process of LEED Canada NC Gold certification and has a host of sustainable features, some of which include: two atria for daylighting and passive ventilation, aggressive energy-efficiency measures in the design of building systems (HVAC, envelope, heat recovery, etc.), extensive use of healthy materials, and a whole life-cycle approach to building design and material procurement.

Jury  A strong building with a strong concept, beautifully executed. A richly textured angular base supports a polished orthogonal building. A deeply articulated main façade contrasts with the side walls. Special attention is paid to users, both in terms of quality of light as well as opportunities to meet and socialize. On both counts of liveability and architectural expressiveness, this project brings a human dimension to a highly technical program. CA

Client University of British Columbia | Architect Team Saucier + Perrotte–Gilles Saucier, André Perrotte, David Moreaux, Patrice Begin, Charles Alexandre Dubois, Dominique Dumais, Nicko Elliott, Olivier Krieger, Joel Legault, Yutaro Minagawa, Greg Neudorf, Marc-André Tratch, Vedanta Balbahadur. Hughes Condon Marler Architects– Roger Hughes, Bill Uhrich, Craig Lane, Darryl Condon, Paul Fast, Melissa Higgs, Rachel Lacey, Charles Leman, Kourosh Mahvash, Carl-Jan Rupp, Craig West, Eli Wolpin, Nicholas Worth | Structural Glotman Simpson | Mechanical Stantec | Electrical Applied Engineering Solutions (AES) | Civil Core Group Consultants | Landscape Perry + Associates | Architectural Concrete UCC Group | Wayfinding and Signage Smart Design Group | Laboratory Design Stantec | Lighting Tripped On Light | Contractor Ledcor | Area 27,311 m2 | Budget $92 M | Completion September 2012