Nicola Valley Institute of Technology, University College of the Cariboo
Merritt, British Columbia, Canada
Square Footage: 48,631
Excellence in Architecture/Honor Award, 2005
AIA Committee on Education and Society for College and University Planning
High Performance Building Award, 2005
Canadian Wood Council
Excellence in Architecture, 2004
Governor General Award
Design Award, 2002
International Green Building Challenge
This institute is one of the first facilities in Canada shared by native and non-native students. Phase I of the 43-acre campus master plan is a semi-circular plan that will ultimately evolve into a circle, a shape chosen for its deep significance to native cultures. The building is symbolically oriented to the four cardinal points with the main entry at the east axis facing the rising sun.
The design process involved intensive user group interaction and many site visits with native elders resulting in learning spaces that support traditional First Nations' culture and foster student success. Spaces are functionally organized to eliminate any sense of hierarchy. Program elements include classrooms, faculty offices, social spaces, laboratories, a bookstore, cafeteria, and library.
The building is designed to grow out of the landscape with minimal disruption to the surrounding area. Its wood column structure visually recalls native pithouses with poles rising up through the interior space. As a cold climate green building, it reflects traditional aboriginal structures and values. A glazed ventilation stack with operable windows creates airflow patterns that ventilate the building naturally. Tensioned fabric, a reference to "stretched skins" in aboriginal design, is used for shading and for the front entrance canopy.