Merit - SCUP Excellence in Architecture for a New Building

University of British Columbia

University of British Columbia Aquatic Centre
University of British Columbia - University of British Columbia Aquatic Centre
Jury Comments
“. . . did some innovative things without a tremendous budget . . . innovative and creative use of materials . . . smart urban design moves include integrating with the bus/transit stop . . . stated barrier-free goal is another strong element . . . project serves everyone in the community well . . .”


    • Site – 1.5 acres; Building – 85,000 gsf / 68,000 asf
    • LEED Gold Certified
    • The roof form is manipulated to provide weather protection and solar control.
    • The interior Aquatic Hall ceiling is a humidity resistant acoustic paneling tessellated at its edges to mediate the glazing line. This continuous acoustic surface allows for coaching activities and noisy community functions to coexist.
    • Indirect Aquatic lighting and uplighting along the west and south façades creates a luminous and inviting canopy throughout the day and evenings.
    • The facility works with the scale of its neighboring buildings to create a defined public realm on three sides.


Located at the heart of the student precinct, the iconic new Aquatic Centre conveys an open and engaging urbanistic design, drawing in casual community- and campus-based recreation users for swimming, socializing, and spectator events. It serves as a gateway to both the larger campus and athletic precinct, fronting the newly developed Transit Arrival Plaza, which welcomes more than 25,000 students daily to UBC’s campus.

In approaching the UBC Aquatic Centre, a survey of aquatic facilities throughout Canada and the United States was undertaken, looking at both campus and civic project precedents. Operating as its own municipality, UBC required active consultation and stakeholder engagement with campus, competition, and student and community groups.

An extremely low budget had the challenge to co-program elite level training and competitions with daily community use. This led to a low-cost singular but two-sided pool hall divided by a Y-shaped columns and a continuous skylight, splitting the long span and figuratively bisecting the building. In section, a translucent screen creates a luminous barrier between the two spaces, reflecting abundant sunlight into the leisure side, while providing the required controlled and balanced light into the competitive side. This approach creates clear delineation between competition and community use within the most cost-effective envelope dropping invigorating daylight deep into the plan.

The new Aquatic Centre integrates the needs of a high-performance competition, training, and learning venue with a community-focused aquatic centre while enhancing the student/campus experience.

Project Team

MJMA and Acton Ostry Architects; also Equilibrium Consulting; AME Group; Applied Engineering Solutions; Water Technology Inc.; Recollective