Diamond Schmitt Architects-designed Thompson Rivers University Law School opens in Kamloops, British Columbia
The first new law school in Canada in 30 years has opened its new home at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, British Columbia. The design by Diamond Schmitt Architects revitalises an existing campus building known as the Old Main with a two-storey addition that provides 45,000 sq ft of state-of-the-art learning space.
Inspired by the natural surroundings and First Nations heritage that inform TRU’s identity, the building features an undulating, 400ft-long roof that echoes the landscape and shades the south façade, allowing for expansive glazing to bring daylight and views deep into the program areas.
The Old Main Addition is organised with double-height spaces on the south side for the reading room and main teaching rooms. On the north side, two floors house the law library and offices, with views to Mt. Peter and Mt. Paul, sites held sacred by the local Secwepemc people.
“The design intent is very much grounded in a sense of place, in First Nations culture and represents a new direction for law education,” said Donald Schmitt, Principal, Diamond Schmitt Architects.
In order to complete the shell of the addition on a very tight schedule in the summer of 2012, the roof was made of prefabricated panels and installed in just seven weeks. Designed with structural engineers Fast+Epp and fabricators StructureCraft Builders, the panels were constructed using glulam beams, wood joists and plywood sheathing, requiring innovative thinking to comply with the building code.
At four storeys, the addition was too tall to permit combustible materials in its structure. An alternative solution based on heavy timber and fire-retardant treatment was developed, using computer modeling of fire conditions to demonstrate the building would safely meet the intent of the code.
The projecting roof soffit is clad in cedar between exposed glulam beams and appears from ground level as a flowing ribbon of wood against the curtainwall façade. The two existing floors of Old Main have been re-clad in cement-board planks that form curving bands that reference First Nations basket-weaving traditions. Two cedar-clad canopies provide prominent new entrances and create a dialogue with the soaring roof above. A glass elevator tower at the north entrance acts as a beacon to complete the $20.2m transformation of the existing building.
A central atrium from north to south provides a sense of arrival and orientation and is a focus for social gathering under a sweeping ceiling, complemented by a sculptural spiral stair. Extensive use of wood finishes again reference the natural and cultural heritage of the region and unifies the interior spaces.
The library is divided by the central corridor, separating stacks from the reading room. The combination of intimate classrooms and a variety of individual and group learning environments creates the opportunity for interaction between student and faculty.
The Law School at Thompson Rivers University was designed with associate architects Stantec Architecture. The project received the 2014 Honour Award for Excellence in Architecture for Building Additions or Adaptive Reuse from The Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) and The American Institute of Architects’ Committee on Architecture for Education.