September 2023

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S E P T E M B E R 2 0 2 3 | 81 University Commons – University of Alberta P H OTO G R A P H Y BY A D R I EN W I L L I A M S/CO U RT E S Y G EC A RC H I T EC T U R E UNIVERSITY COMMONS – UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA by STACEY MCLACHLAN I s it possible to preserve his- tory and change with the times? The University of Alberta's striking, revitalised University Commons building – a vision in both brick and glass – suggests the answer is a resounding yes. What was once a 100-year- old brick building, home to the Dentistry and Pharmacy pro- grams, is now a busy hub of campus life, thanks to a savvy renovation that celebrates the building's heri- tage while bringing in 21st-century functionality and sustainability. When it was originally built back in 1922, it was, as Kelly Hopkin, U of A Manager Campus Architecture describes it, "at the heart of the campus." Its new function as the University Commons building is an act of reclaiming that original iden- tity, in a way. "It's where our bus and LRT traffic comes, all of our students arrive here . . . we want to restitch it back into campus, and give it a new life and new vitality," says Hopkin. The original brick building now connects to a modern seven-sto- rey tower; together, they house highly functional (but highly flex- ible spaces) such as a grand entryway, student support services, book- able rooms, multi-purpose spaces, lecture theatres, and even a "calm- ing room" where students can take a moment to find respite. "We were working with this idea of a university town hall, a place where students and faculty and staff all come together," explains Richard Blouin, partner at GEC Architecture. Here, three storeys of balconies over- look the bustling entryway, where students and faculty interact, collab- orate, and find inspiration below. Preserving the heritage and char- acter of the original 1922 building while upgrading its infrastructure for modern needs was a top priority for the construction team, Clark Builders, and the design team. "We salvaged and reused as much as possible," explains Blouin; even new materials like rubbed bronze and limestone nod to the building's history. The commit- ment to blending the old with the new extends to intricate restoration efforts. Plasterwork was delicately reinstalled in the original reading room, and concrete floors were ground down to match the texture of the original ter- razzo. "We've retained the character as much as we could," says Hopkin. That grand west wing tower stands tall – a modern extension, enveloped in insulated metal panels with triple-pane glazing. This section of the design allows natural light to permeate the interi- ors, reducing the building's energy LOCATION 11404 87 Avenue NW, Edmonton, Alberta OWNER /DEVELOPER University of Alberta ARCHITECTS GEC Architecture (Phase 1 Core and Shell); Zeidler Architects (Phase 2 Fit-Out – Ongoing) GENER AL CONTR ACTOR Clark Builders STRUCTUR AL CONSULTANT RJC Engineers MECHANICAL CONSULTANT AME Group ELECTRICAL CONSULTANT SMP Engineering TOTAL SIZE 404,905 square feet (new build 303,014 square feet / old 1922 renovation 101,891 square feet) TOTAL GR ANT $249 million (Phase 1 – $149 million, Phase 2 – $100 million)

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