Located in Richmond, BC, in the delta of the Fraser River, the site conditions, including a very high water table, infirm soils, and seismic considerations, necessitated a structural approach that is at once very light but very stiff. In essence, the structure had to perform like a ship.
As Jane Jacobs observed: “new ideas need old buildings.” From New York to Beijing, artists, designers and architects around the world work in studios in former historic industrial warehouse districts. Here, the industrial, 19th-century, warehouse typology evolved to create an open, rational grid with high ceilings and sustainable materials. It embodies first principles – 100% fresh air, natural light, views, and connection to the outdoors – with a flexible robust plan – heavy timber structural system, all to last 100+ years.
The program is organized into three zones. The Ground Zone is highly public and the main interface with industry. It includes testing labs and an incubator for BC Technical Fashion. The Mid Zone houses the teaching/studios, as well as Fashion, Interior Design and Graphics programs. The Upper Zone is designated for event/conference space.
As well as providing a new face and main entrance to the campus, the design re-orients the entire precinct to values of accessibility, sustainability, openness and transparency.
The CNC-milled, post-and-beam, timber frame adheres to the same robust, rational plan grid that affords traditional warehouses their exceptional versatility. This flexibility allows many different forms of occupation of the building, over a semester or across generations.