University College of the North is a unique post-secondary institution offering trades, adult education, certificate, diploma and university degree granting programs, which is located in a region of Manitoba abundant in natural resources, beautiful lakes, rivers, forests and minerals; serving communities steeped in Aboriginal cultures and traditions. The new campus building was designed and built in conjunction with the Thompson Regional Community Centre, to create a ‘town centre’. The two buildings share a large unobstructed opening, as well as amenities such as food services, a gymnasium, day care and library.
"We designed the abundant areas of glass so that we could connect with the sky, the Burntwood River and the boreal forest. We opened the interior spaces to feel the vastness of the north. We wanted this building to have northern and aboriginal ownership and we were wanting a deeper spiritual meaning to this building."
The signature south façade is the public face of the new campus. Conceptually, it is transparent, reflective of the educational and community programs contained within. The upper floors are shaded by an array of horizontal slats inspired by vernacular aboriginal building techniques and the craftsmanship of the canoes used by native peoples for transportation on the Burntwood River. A dramatic and welcoming two-storey main entrance strengthens the connection to the Community Centre, and acts as the central meeting area.
The student experience inside the building is about maintaining a safe and welcoming environment, with an abundance of natural light and exterior views. The material palette was simplified to materials that relate to the region and aboriginal cultural values, while also providing texture and warmth to the project. With this in mind, the building utilized local granite, natural cedar and metal cladding. A ‘green’ roof, sloping up from grade level, provides a natural outdoor environment, and gives the appearance the building grows out of the land.