2013 AZ Award Winner: Best Architecture > 1,000 Square Metres

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Firms: Saucier + Perrotte Architectes, Montreal, and Hughes Condon Marler Architects, Vancouver
Team: Roger Hughes, André Perrotte and Gilles Saucier with Craig Lane, David Moreaux, and Bill Ulrich

The University of British Columbia is an academic jewel, though it has lacked a visually captivating campus gateway that embodies its ambition as a world leader in cutting-edge research. The new Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences building, by Saucier + Perrotte and Hughes Condon Marler Architects, has filled that void with stunning clarity and style. Bold, beautiful and photo­genic from every vantage point, the six-storey facility appears to hover above a largely transparent ground floor, with the bulk of the upper level defined by stacked cubes that look as though they’ve exploded ­into the world. Each module sports tinted glass in six shades, from clear to black to mirrored, giving the facades their Ray-Ban coolness.

Conceptually, the architects started with a canopy of branching trees, abstracted into geometric components that don’t read overtly as trees. In place of thick trunks, two voids reach to the rooftop, creating shafts for natural light to filter deep into the interior. Offices are located largely around the perimeter, where 820 students and close to 200 staff have access to light and air through operable windows. Meanwhile, the laboratories on the upper floors, where temperature control is restricted, are clustered around the atriums.

The site happens to include a busy pedestrian pathway, which the design takes full advantage of, with concrete risers doubling as outdoor bench seating and entry points from each side of the building. The main level, enveloped in glass, is what entices most people to wander inside, where they find themselves in a dramatic space defined by asymmetrical walls clad in rich cedar planks, and elevator blocks cloaked in black. Built with a focus on sustainability, the project is expected to earn LEED Gold certification.

THE FIRMS  Founded by Gilles Saucier and André Perrotte in 1988, Saucier + Perrotte Architectes is among the most decorated and internationally recognized firms in Canada. In addition to projects across Canada, the Montreal firm is working in Japan, China, the Middle East and Africa. Hughes Condon Marler Architects of Vancouver focuses on sustainable design. Most of its 45 staff members are LEED‑accredited professionals. ­

What the jury said:
“The minute I saw this building, I knew it was world class. It’s a laboratory, but it’s very playful and refreshing. I haven’t seen anything like it for a long, long time.” 
– Todd Saunders, Saunders Architecture

saucierperrotte.com, hcma.ca

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