The first new law school in Canada in 30 years has opened at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, British Columbia. The design by Diamond Schmitt Architects revitalizes an existing campus building known as the Old Main with a two-story, 45,000-square-foot addition.
Inspired by the natural surroundings and First Nations heritage, the building features an undulating, 400-foot-long roof that shades the south façade. The Old Main Addition is organized 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.
“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.
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. At four stories, the addition was based on heavy timber and fire-retardant treatment to meet code.
The projecting roof soffit is clad in cedar between exposed glulam beams. The two existing floors of Old Main have been re-clad in cement-board planks, which form curving bands to 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 $20.2 million 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 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 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.