UBC Gateway

A living space for learning

The University of British Columbia (UBC) is located Vancouver, Canada, and holds the distinction of being the oldest university in the region. It has consistently ranked among the top 50 universities worldwide and is dedicated to providing excellent student experiences by embracing a framework that integrates research and community engagement with teaching and learning. This aligns with the UBC’s vision of offering a dynamic space for learning, which encourages reflection, exploration, and critical thinking to make a positive impact on the world.

The Gateway project creates a place for learning, research, and community outreach through co-location of the schools of Nursing, Kinesiology, Language Science, and UBC health clinics. The site is located at the principal point of entry to campus, providing a unique opportunity to express the values and aspirations of the University.

The plans for the site were developed through consultations with representatives of the Musqueam First Nation. For generations, the Musqueam population has taken care of the land where the university now stands. From this dialogue, an expanded public realm in the spirit of the Indigenous forest that once occupied the site was created at the gateway, as a way to feature landscape as part of an inviting Host Nation welcome to people arriving on campus.

Also inspired by the Musqueam stewardship of the land as well as in support of the University’s ambitions to reduce environmental impact and inspired by Musqueam, an ethic of deep sustainability is core to the design. A holistic approach to living design principles is embedded in design decisions on materials, where both the natural Pacific Northwest setting and the immediate context of the surrounding campus is evident in the expressed timber used throughout the public spaces of the building.

As the main entrance to campus, the site already has a prominent, ceremonial aspect to it and the UBC Gateway project presented a unique opportunity to express the presence and culture of the Musqueam people, and specifically their cultural tradition for welcoming.

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Located in a strategic location in the Vancouver UBC Campus, the project aspires to five design drivers: Academic Gateway, Host Nation, Health and Well-Being and Zero Carbon.

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Recognising the importance of open space to the Musqueam Host Nation, the starting point for the design is conceptualising the site in its original form as an indigenous landscape.

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Pathways or desire lines are mapped onto the site to discover patterns of movement. These paths create opportunities for meaningful open spaces across the site, and an organising framework for placement of program and circulation.

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The upper storeys of the building appear to float above the ground floor, allowing the landscape and public realm to extend under the building. The volume is subdivided in two, creating a generous atrium inside.

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The south facade of the building is angled to align with the street on one side, and greet visitors arriving on campus on the other.This angled facade offers a ‘play’ with the Strangway building across the street, framing the landscaped outdoor plaza and creating a welcoming and distinctive point of arrival.

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Supporting the health and wellness goals, open communicating feature stairs serve each floor and reinforce the atrium as a community space for the building while placing emphasis on movement and active design.

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Representative of the larger context, the new Gateway Building will be a connector between campus and community, inviting students, faculty, staff, and the community into the campus.

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British Columbia, Canada
25,000 m²
Completion expected in 2024
University of British Columbia
Open RFP process 2020
Collaborating Architect:
Landscape Architect:
Hapa Collaborative
RJC, Stantec, Smith+Andersen, InterCAD
Targeting Canada Green Building Council’s (CaGBC) Zero Carbon Building Standard & LEED v4 Gold certification
Canadian Architect Awards of Excellence, Award of Excellence for UBC Gateway in Vancouver, Canada

The University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada, ranks among the world’s best universities. The new Gateway building at the university’s point Grey campus entrance is designed to reflect the UBC’s reputation as a world-class institution for higher education as well as its promise to support inclusivity, sustainability, and well-being.

The new health science academic and research institution will transform the arrival experience for students, staff, and visitors and co-locate the School of Nursing, School of Kinesiology, Integrated Student Health Services, and Health and Language Science components. Bringing together different departments will strengthen the academic programs through collaboration opportunities.

Built on Musqueam territory, the new Gateway building reflects the university’s commitment to Indigenous reconciliation and early engagements with the Musqueam population helped establish the conceptual foundation of the design process.

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Designed with a holistic approach to people and nature, the landscape surrounding the building was developed to enhance the local ecology. This extended nature landscape will be lined by significant trees and lush ground to offer respite and spiritual nourishment for all visitors. The gateway’s structure, made of exposed mass timber, will lower the project's embodied carbon and provide biophilic benefits to users.

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The Gateway building's transparent entryway will provide a visual connection to the existing campus and public realm. Located at the intersection of University Boulevard and Wesbrook Mall, Gateway marks the historic arrival point of UBC and the crossroads of campus and community.  The facility will host a mix of spaces, including wet and dry labs, clinical areas, lecture theatres and classrooms, gym and fitness facilities, and office and administrative functions.

The building integrates UBC’s promise to support inclusivity, sustainability, and well-being. 

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Timber represents a traditional building material and brings warmth to the campus, sensed in the central six-storey atrium. The atrium’s sculptural timber staircase cultivates socialisation and knowledge-sharing, creating an open and welcoming atmosphere. The local flora and the warm, light-filled design express commonalities between Musqueam values and culture and UBC's environmental and wellness goals.

The Gateway building supports UBC’s ambitious sustainability goals, aiming to be the university’s first building to meet the Canada Green Building Council’s (CaGBC) Zero Carbon Building Standard. The building integrates passive design strategies such as a high-performance envelope, high-efficiency mechanical systems, and reduced embodied carbon. UBC Gateway was designed in collaboration with Perkins&Will's Vancouver practice.

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