The Commons, UBC Okanagan

Location: Kelowna, B.C.
Moriyama & Teshima Architects in association with MQN Architecture & Interior Design

OAA Design Excellence Awards Finalist

Designed to LEED Gold, The Commons project was completed by Moriyama & Teshima Architects and MQN Architects. A major addition to the existing University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO) Campus Library, the three-storey, 62,400-sf facility addresses the library’s much-needed storage and archival constraints, but also fulfils a critical student need to create a multipurpose, technologically enhanced teaching and learning facility on the budding campus. Acting as both a gateway building and connecting anchor for the south campus, the bold but simple state-of-the-art building is characterized by a rational plan that uniquely fosters collaboration, scholarly engagement, and innovation.

In response to UBCO’s vision, the design team transformed the existing library into a renewed student hub, campus heart, and teaching and learning facility with formal and informal student spaces. To achieve this sense of community productivity, the facility relies on both physical and visual connections through strategic sectional relationships and the placement of interior glazing, not only between contiguous spaces but also between different levels throughout the building. Inviting students to join, meet, and work within the convivial and collegial atmosphere of The Commons, the connections also serves to provide natural light and vistas.

Designed to LEED Gold, The Commons exceeded UBCO’s sustainability aspirations with an innovative integrated rainwater management system that collects rainwater from the facility’s roof, directs it into a single downspout, and releases it into a rain garden made of stepped loam-filled terraces and drought- and flood-resistant plantings that become saturated through a series of concrete rills. Once saturated, excess rainwater is diverted to a detention tank that has a controlled release to the rainwater retention pond, if needed. UBCO has selected this highly successful design as a model for future projects on campus.

The Commons addresses the long-term goals of both the campus and the library through the provision of versatile teaching and learning spaces that support the projected growth of the campus. The facility is outfitted with the largest lecture theatre on campus—a 400-seat lecture theatre and teaching classroom that is one of two in the world. Marrying the flexibility of a lab with the capacity of a lecture theatre, the theatre contains five wheelchair-accessible tiers, each with two rows of desks that allows students to switch from lecture to collaboration by simply swiveling their chairs.

 Image Credit: Riley Snelling

 Image Credit: Riley Snelling

Image Credit: Riley Snelling
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