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Project Details
University of British Columbia Aquatic Centre
Vancouver, British Columbia

Client : University of British Columbia / UBC Properties Trust
Area : 58,000 sf
Program : 10-Lane 54m FINA Competition Pool, 10-Lane 25m Warm Up Pool and Diving Well with Moveable Floor, Warm Water Leisure Basin with Lazy River
Completion : January 2017
Associated Architects : Acton Ostry Architects
"How can the Aquatic Centre effectively train Olympians, serve its community, and enhance the student experience. How can the new facility operate 'learn-to-swim' programs while at the same time running a 1000 person swim meet?"
 
In 2012, UBC sent more swimmers to the London Summer Olympic Games than anywhere in Canada, and became the most successful swim team in the country. Meanwhile, the explosive market-driven expansion of the Endowment Lands and burgeoning campus community created the fastest growing youth and family population in the Lower Mainland. The new Aquatic Centre is required to meet the needs of both these groups; a high performance training / competition venue, and a community aquatic centre within a single facility – while engaging the public realm and contributing to campus life and the student experience.
 
The design approach divides the plan north-south into four program bars: lobby and changerooms; community aquatics; competition aquatics; and bleachers. Daylight is used as the organizing device and separator for the community and competition aquatic halls. A ‘Y’ shaped bank of columns supports a continuous 6m wide skylight bisecting the length of the building and splitting the two halls. A translucent screen creates a luminescent virtual barrier between the two spaces, offering controllability of the space to effectively operate divergent aquatic functions simultaneously.
 
The siting of the new aquatic centre responds to the expanse of the transit plaza, the volume of student traffic, and key pedestrian circulation and vehicular arrival on site. It works with the scale of its neighbouring buildings to create defined public realm spaces on three sides: the south facade frames the space of the new transit plaza, providing shelter, views, and terraced southern seating for commuters; the west facade, canopy, and glazed corridor parallels a lush garden promenade of mature trees along 'Athletes Way'; and the north facade creates a public viewing passageway and optional programmable exterior activity space.
 
The new aquatic centre sets the bar high Internationally for sustainable aquatic design. In addition to the pursuit of LEED Gold, innovative water conservation, and a campus infrastructure sharing regenerative neighbourhood strategy, the design team is collaboratively involved in PhD level research in healthy aquatic environments. Original NSERC research aimed at reducing exposure to disinfection byproducts (DBPs) through design and management strategies is being supported by the team in collaboration with the client and School of Engineering as part of its ‘Living Lab’.