Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre at the University of British Columbia opens

Designed by KPMB Architects in joint venture with HCMA Architecture + Design, the Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre at the University of British Columbia recently opened, the latest addition to the rapidly expanding Vancouver campus. The three-storey glazed pavilion building is designed to contribute to street-level vitality while creating a signature building for the University, along with past, present and future alumni.

Totalling 41,335 square feet, the Alumni Centre includes a lounge and hospitality space, meeting spaces, a library, an Achievement Lounge for 40, learning facilities, meeting spaces, and an upscale café. The second floor houses a celebration space that accommodates dinners for 300. A dedicated floor hosts entrepreneurship@ubc, which provides mentorship, education and venture creation to the UBC community.

Open and transparent at grade with views through from University Boulevard to the knoll and University Square beyond, the Centre animates this primary location on UBC’s East Mall. The upper two floors are clad in a seamless white frit glass wrapper that references the white brick Modernist buildings typical of the UBC campus. The sleek pristine exterior contrasts with the warmth of rough-sawn western red cedar that clads the soffit, interior ceilings of public spaces, and the building’s dramatic feature stair that connects all floors.

The pure geometry of the pavilion form creates a signature statement on a campus primarily defined by brick and stone rectilinear buildings. The white ceramic frit is applied to the exterior in varying densities of patterning: more open in the building’s public spaces, denser for more private uses, such as offices. The glass at grade is highly transparent to bring the program to the surface and activate grade level. The exterior is primarily unitized curtain wall that required a state-of-the-art mechanical system: a high-end air-to-water heat-pump system, which is the second unit to be installed in Canada. The design achieves goals for signature architecture within a limited construction budget of $12.8 million.

The project is designed to achieve LEED Gold certification; sustainable initiatives include optimized energy performance, construction waste management, recycled materials, water-efficient landscaping as well as two charging stations for electrical cars.

In advance of this project, KPMB and HCMA completed detailed development guidelines for University Boulevard, in the context of the master plan for the UBC campus. Substantive changes were required for this gateway planned for the key arrivals precinct of the campus. An architectural analysis of the campus and its systems of infrastructure was conducted to define the planning framework for an expansion of the Student Union Building, the site for the Alumni Centre, and the bookstore and bus drop-off, creating an important nexus of student services and activity on campus. The process included approvals from numerous stakeholders, including university administration, planning and development, faculty, students, alumni society, and local authorities.

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