Bing Thom Architects

“Since 1980, Bing Thom Architects (BTA) has been collaborating with and advising cultural institutions, corporations, universities, governments, developers and communities around the world to help them successfully achieve their building aspirations” (From the Bing Thom Website)

The Chan Centre

The Chan Centre

Social Media


In addition to all the traditional methods of reaching out to students, BTA proposed articles in the newspaper, blogs, a Flickr account (students would be able to add photos of things they had seen and fallen in love with in order to offer the architects inspiration). I really like that BTA think outside the box; it is evident in all of their ideas. Having architects who think outside the box will be crucial if we want a building that will be a building of pride for students.


Something that really impressed me about BTA was that in order to make sure their designs work and are user friendly; they build full-scale replicas of their design in their parking lot! The idea behind the full-scale models is that in order to work out problems in design, the architects need to be able to see the problem. Their presentation really showed how problems are identified and how they find the best solution possible for the problem.

Their approach to sustainability was unique in the sense that instead of looking at our ecological footprint, they focus on our ecological handprint. The idea behind this is that in order to be the most sustainable, one must look to each habit we have and find the most sustainable action we can replace the unsustainable habits that we do have. The idea that a building should be part of the landscape and should blend seems to be somewhat of a principle for BTA. This is going to be so important for the SUB because of our location in the heart of campus.


The best thing about Bing Thom’s approach to consultation was that in additional to the conventional meetings that they would hold to consult with students, they talked about different types of consultation methods they have used in the past which are totally outside of the box. One of the examples was asking users to help design furniture using play-do! They really had a grasp on what students will need from this building, they were able to relate and reach out to students. Not only did BTA look to current students to consult about problems in the current SUB, they went through our archives to find problems we faced when the building first opened!

Quick! Build me a bookcase!

Quick! Build me a bookcase!

The Team

Each team member was very through with his or her answers to the questions. Each person’s passion and expertise was evident. I liked that BTA made it a point to mention that they were willing to stand up for their client; something that will come in handy in a project with the partnerships that we have. The team also understood the way the AMS operates and the amount of turnover that happens each year. I liked that the team didn’t seem inflated; each person had a very specific purpose and would contribute meaningfully to the project. All of the major components of our project were considered and looked after.


One of the biggest things that annoyed me about their presentation was a just an oversight on their part. On their presentation board there is a UBC logo. It isn’t really a big deal, but it is so important to the SUB project that the architect selection and the final product be part of the AMS.


Frankly, this firm really got me excited about this project, and I was excited to begin with! I really liked this firm because their passion and their dedication to the project really shone through. The Chan Centre is one of my favourite buildings on campus, and I love the principles that have been applied to that building.  I have faith that BTA will be able to put the SUB on the radar of students. They understand the dynamics on campus and in the AMS. I completely agree that the SUB needs to be a collision space for people with different backgrounds; the human connection on campus is missing. The SUB should be a like no other building on campus, Bing Thom Architects have all the tools to make that happen.


6 Comments so far

  1. Andy Yan on April 8, 2010 3:24 pm

    The BTA team would like to thank those students and the AMS who attended for the opportunity to present some of our ideas about your new Student Union Building.

    While you might have seen and heard about BTA’s passion for great sustainable architecture and grassroots community building, it was inspiring to see the excitement of UBC students for their new building.

    Remember to vote and stay engaged:

    Best of luck to the AMS on the rest of the SUB Architect selection process!

  2. Derek on April 8, 2010 3:40 pm

    Oh… that’s like a knife in the heart. I was responsible for that oversight on the presentation boards. I never even thought of it as an expression of allegiance, just geography. The same portion of the boards lists our website info, our facebook info, and… our presentation info — on the UBC campus… ouch

  3. Julian Ritchie on April 10, 2010 10:10 am

    I have one complaint with BingThom, and its somewhat peripheral to the firm them selves. The new sunset community center that they worked on has less space than the old building that was torn down. One of the factors in this was the board choosing a more expensive roof-line. How do you rationalize presenting less effective but more visually stunning options to replacement projects operating on fixed budgets when your work then decreases the overall utility of your client’s spaces.

    This was also posed here rather than directly to you to gauge how you are monitoring student voices.

  4. Michael Heeney on April 10, 2010 5:49 pm

    Hello Julian

    Thank you for your comments. We are always interested in student input and are monitoring and responding posts as much as we can.

    The assumptions in your comments aren’t quite right. The Sunset Community Centre is about 30,000 square feet which is actually 20% bigger than the old one. More importantly, the utilization rate has increased substantially as indicated by centre membership increasing by 40% in just a few months after the new facility opened.

    Beyond its increased size and more accessible design, the membership increase has a lot to do with the fact that the community loves their new building and that we were able to locate it closer to Main Street where it has become an integral part of the community’s everyday world.

    Tremendous kudos has to be given to the Sunset Community Association. Like the AMS is for SUB, this group were the project champions and were instrumental in our selection and with whom we consulted closely when we designed the building. A history of facility can be found here:

    An amusing historical note is that Bing Crosby actually broke the ground for the original Sunset Community Centre. Each generation at the Sunset Community Association has an association with a “Bing”. Designed to LEED Gold standards and despite being bigger, the operating costs of this facility are lower than the previous one too.

    I’m glad that you brought up the roof, because in fact we were able to utilize conventional framing for the roof. The building structure is composed of off-the-shelf components like steel joists and curtain wall systems along with common construction techniques like tilt-up construction (typically used for warehouse construction). We simply put it together in a different way so we could create a unique building for this unique neighbourhood.

    The Park Board chose to demolish the old community centre to make way for more park land. We made sure that the building was carefully disassembled so that the components could be reused as much as possible. We even crushed the concrete and used it as structural fill for the new building! Having said that, we also have reservations about tearing down buildings like this and really wondered if enough thought was paid by the Park Board as to whether the old building might have been of service to other community groups.

    As part of the SUB Renewal process and the AMS’ commitment to sustainability, we hope that consideration of what is to happen to the current SUB building will be a central part of the ongoing project considerations.

  5. Julian Ritchie on April 10, 2010 9:03 pm

    Let me thank you for your response.
    My comment about reduced size came from a member of the association who was active during the move and afterwords, I cant speak as to why they felt there was less space only that the perception was there.
    All the best in the voting and the rest of the selection process.

  6. Em on April 16, 2010 12:51 pm

    As someone who lives in the Sunset CC neighbourhood and who has used both the old and new community centres, and who has also organized many events in different campus spaces, including SUB, I wish to add to Julian’s comments. I, along with other friends who’ve used both Sunset facilities, to this day cannot get over the wasted space and impracticalities of the room designs (too small, curved walls)in the new building. Try taking an aerobics class in a room with curved walls and a maximum capacity of 12 people – you spend the whole lesson trying to avoid bumping into each other. It’s also very hot in the summer, with all the glass and no blinds. The instructor said she could give the same class at another community centre to 40 people, and have tons of spare room. The capacity issues represent lost revenue to the community centre. Instead of the high ceiling in the foyer, there could’ve been a whole 2nd floor. If only the Sunset CC was designed similarly to the Killarney CC – spacious, practical rooms, a great space. The AMS seriously needs to consider these other important factors (maximizing revenue, practicalities of the design – different-sized rooms that can be rented out, no pillars that block views, curved walls that make room set-up difficult, etc).

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