UBC to build $100M new neighbourhood

Tuesday, October 26th, 2004

University will hold a design competition for $100-million revamp

Doug Ward


UBC officials are searching for an architect to revamp its main entrance with housing, stores, restaurants and a public square.

VANCOUVER – The University of B.C. will announce today an international search for an architect for its proposed $100-million University Boulevard neighbourhood development.

Hoping to attract world-renowned architects such as Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind and others, the university wants to set a new standard for its campus architecture.

“This competition is an important opportunity to build world-class architecture that will define the entrance of UBC and create a new social heart for the campus,” said Dennis Pavlich, UBC’s vice-president of external affairs.

The project will revamp UBC’s main entrance at Wesbrook Mall and create a new neighbourhood, including housing, stores, cafes, restaurants and a public square.

“We want University Boulevard to become the hallmark of UBC. It will be a huge meeting and gathering place,” Pavlich said.

“But ultimately what it comes down to is creating memory. Which is why the architectural competition is so important. It’s not only about creating beauty — it’s also about creating spaces where people can chat and learn and make decisions.”

The University Boulevard neighbourhood will be one of nine distinct residential neighbourhoods making up the University Town community, which will boost UBC’s population to 20,900 by 2021, from about 10,400 today.

UBC officials also want the new project to create a more dramatic visual presence at the main campus entrance at University Boulevard and Wesbrook Mall.

“We are trying to give it a very strong architectural and functional identity, so that when you think of UBC that’s what you are going to think about,” Pavlich said.

Linda Moore, associate vice-president for University Town, said the new entrance should “create an experience where people know they’ve arrived at UBC.”

After all, added Moore, “when you arrive at Harvard, you know you’re at Harvard.”

University Boulevard is the first architectural design competition to be held in B.C. since 1991, when the Vancouver Public Library held a national design competition that was won by architect Moshe Safdie. A winner will be announced in May 2005.

The University Boulevard competition jury includes Safdie, who lives in Israel and the U.S., and four other internationally known architects: Arthur Erickson from Vancouver, Leon Krier of France, Demetri Porphyrios of Britain and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk of the U.S. The jury will also include a number of UBC officials.

The 7.2-hectare design area is made up of five building sites. The competition will include a new University Square, a new greenway, new university related shops and services, apartments and open spaces and pedestrian connections between buildings.

The number of participants in the competition will be reduced to a shortlist of six and then of three. Round-table lectures will be held in January 2005 to present the work of the six shortlisted architectural firms.

The design submissions of the final three will be showcased in March 2005 and voted on by UBC students, faculty and staff.

The vote and comments from the community will be presented to the jury, but the results won’t be binding.

“It’s very unusual. But I see it as very democratic,” said Pavlich. “It’s important, because for this facility to succeed, the community has to see it as meeting their needs.”

The vote is a direct result by UBC to requests by the campus community for more input into the project.

UBC wants to avoid the public controversy that accompanied the release in 2003 of the draft design for the University Boulevard Neighbourhood.

The response to University Boulevard was overwhelmingly negative at early public meetings because of proposals to construct residential towers as high as 18 storeys, extend University Boulevard to Marine Drive for vehicle traffic and rebuild the bus loop below grade.

In the end, UBC altered the design, dropping maximum building heights to five storeys from 18.

© The Vancouver Sun 2004


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