Sneak Peek: Emily Carr University’s New $122-Million Campus

“It really celebrates the cultural uniqueness of Vancouver and B.C.”

After 10 years of planning, development and construction, the new campus for Emily Carr University of Art and Design opened its doors on Great Northern Way on Tuesday, September 5. It’s the university’s first purpose-built campus, having left its former Granville Island location, and the design is truly stunning. “The most important thing, besides adding to the cultural infrastructure of the city, is it really celebrates the cultural uniqueness of Vancouver and B.C.,” says ECUAD President and Vice-Chancellor, Ron Burnett. That’s reflected in the building’s organization, and the fact that every classroom, lab and studio features windows and glazing on its walls, he explains. “Often in universities things happen behind closed doors, but here, everything is really open for the view.”Toronto-based Diamond Schmitt Architects executed the $122.5-million design, and the campus will host 2,000 full-time students and approximately 3,000 part-time students in a week’s time. The Chip and Shannon Wilson Arts plaza was created thanks to a donation from the Lululemon founder. The grassy knoll in its centre will host a totem pole, which will be completed in a year. The building is LEED Gold certified, and complies with the Wood First Act, which requires wood be used as the primary building material. Three major atria in the building allow natural light to travel through all four floors. On the main floor, the Reliance Theatre features entry doors with First Nations carvings—this one from artist Edwin Neel. One door is an original carving, while the other is a print: a template is made with a CNC machine This set of doors by artist and alumnus Xwalacktun also features the print technology. “It really opens up the ability to get an entrepreneurial activity going,” notes Burnett. The Reliance Theatre seats 400. The Ron Burnett Library and Learning Commons spans more than 30,000 square feet on two floors. For an annual fee, members of the public will also have access to the books. Painting studios, like this Gordon and Marion Smith studio, are flooded with natural light. Design labs could be purpose-built in the new space, like the Dobney Foundry and Ceramic Kilns. The print-making studio is for the print media program, which features a double-height ceiling and windows facing north and west. The sewing and textile lab is intended for students designing wearables. “We’re as much about analogue design as we are about digital. We treat it as a continuum,” says Burnett.