Stantec Architecture / 3XN

According to their website, “Stantec Architecture and 3XN Architects, together, bring an outstanding depth of relevant experience, significant international design achievements and a very strong Vancouver based “capacity to perform” to this project. Integrating world caliber Design, rigorous Danish Sustainable Design and LEEF Certification experience with Vancouver depth of experience and resources and a commitment to ongoing work together, we are a “naturally” integrated team-we’ll poised to deliver an outstanding, innovative and ground breaking-sustainable SUB Renewal building design.”

UBC Okanangan University Centre (Stantec designed)

UBC Okanangan University Centre (Stantec designed)

Social Media


The first thing that needs to be mentioned about this collaboration is their sick website. It is by far the coolest website out of the seven architects so kudos for that. They also seem to be lacking on the facebook and twitter front.


Their powerpoint presentation was also pretty slick and awesome. One of their points was that the architects can influence the behaviour of the users of the building. They believe that sustainability is not about telling the users what to do but by influencing the behaviour of the users. They emphasized their familiarity and comfort with technology, something that can only help with our project. Something that impressed me about this group was that they looked at the building surrounding the new SUB site and looked for some source of waste energy that we could utilize. They identified the pool as that source of energy.

Consultation and Communication

They plan on continuing to develop the website to include more social parts which will encourage interaction. They also discussed at length the different types of interactive installations they hope to put up in the current SUB during the design stage in order for students to provide feedback. This partnership’s speciality seems to lie in the different interactive media, social and playful interaction and also different 3D scenarios they hope to bring to our project. This is different then anything any of the other firms have offered. They also hope that all these interactive displays can be incorporated into the new building.

An Interactive Media Centre. (That could be you!)

An Interactive Media Centre. (That could be you!)

The Team

The best thing about this team is the fact that they have members who are familiar with Vancouver’s environment and also members who are from Copenhagen who will be able to make our building stand out.


There were points in the presentation where it felt like S+3XN were molding our project to fit the projects they’ve done in the past, not the other way around. From what I understand, neither firms have done any projects at UBC Vancouver (Stantec has done two buildings at UBC Okanagan). While I am super impressed by the interactive displays and other shenanigans that are being proposed, I can’t help but wonder if they are actually going to engage students or if it will just make it seem like they’ve made an attempt.


I really enjoyed this presentation; it was awesome to see a firm really try something different technologically when it comes to student consultation. They also proposed some kind of educational process during handover of the building, something to just explain how to use and work the building to ensure that users are getting full use out of it. With all of that into consideration, I don’t know how comfortable I am with their lack of experience on campus and with UBC PT. It is going to be an intense project with the sheer volume of stakeholders and the partnership between the AMS and UBC. It is going to be extremely important in this particular project for our architects to be able to stand up for the AMS and go to bat for us against UBC PT if the times called for it. I am skeptical that this firm will be able to deliver on that level.


11 Comments so far

  1. Peter on April 12, 2010 9:45 pm

    Crystal, thanks for your good work with comprehensively summarizing 7 quite different presentations. And we do appreciate your comments regarding our Stantec Architecture / 3XN presentation. We are really excited about this project and the opportunity to use the design and interaction processes discussed to develop a truly unique facility for the students of UBC.

    There are some subtle, but very important aspects to our attitudes and design processes implicit in our presentation and they are, in our view, critical to a successful project – specifically that informed users are critical to high levels of sustainability,- technology alone will not meet your aspirations for environmental leadership and with that is implied user awareness and responsible behavior.

    Respecting our intentions regarding building a design response unique to your program – the design processes begin with the site, the program and student’s input – design process may be similar but considerable variation in creative outcomes – based on the unique qualities of site, context, program and your continuing student inputs throughout design.

    Respecting your concerns noted re ability/experience with UBCPT – I would like to note our experience with both UBC and UBCPT. Stantec Architecture and/or our predecessor firm, have completed the MofA expansion, the Liu Center, and the Master Plan and Phase 1 of the Koerner Library, all in collaboration with Arthur Erickson, as well as the Rose Garden Parkade ( a design build project) – in addition we have completed the the UBC-O Student Center and the New Medical School, now under construction.

    Projects have been completed well, on budget/time, and we have a very professional working relationship with UBCPT – based on results.

    Thanks for your initiative in tracking all of this – We appreciate your consistent format, and mature level of commentary.

    Peter Wreglesworth –
    Stantec Architecture/3XN

  2. Kim Nielsen on April 12, 2010 10:33 pm

    Good Morning from Copenhagen. Thanks to Crystal for well written and consistent reviews of all seven teams. Crystal, we enjoyed our time in Vancouver – and indeed we have been there many times now both lecturing on the campus and spending time with our local Vancouver based partner, Stantec Architecture. We have spent a lot of time getting to understand the student’s, the site and the context more fully. One thing mentioned in your review was the idea somehow that we conform buildings to what we have done in the past. Please allow me to comment on your impression. We follow a process – and have done so for many years – called ‘Investigate, Ask, Tell, Draw, Build. It is where every building we do is custom, and no two are ever alike. We investigate the context, people and place; ask the relevant questions; then seek to tell their story through drawing and finally building the structure. This building will be unlike any other – and drawing from our experience, this process has allowed us to successfully build custom projects around the world – on everything from UNESCO World Heritage sites; sensitive ecological areas and in urban settings. Our approach is special for every single project – and you can bear witness to that in the dedicated website meant just for this project and in order to start the communication process with UBC students as early as possible – thanks for your great comments regarding our website:

  3. Neal Yonson on April 12, 2010 10:48 pm

    I didn’t get a chance to see all the presentations, but I did watch the Stantec/3XN one. The bottom line for me was that I didn’t feel they were a good fit for the project at hand. The buildings they showed were very fascinating architecturally. They were not at all cookie-cutter and stood out in the space they were in. However, I don’t necessarily think that’s something I’d be looking for in this case.

    I just imagine the SUB stantec/3XN might design as some amorphous blob resulting in a lot of under-utilized space. I understand that having open, airy space is nice, but I’m also keeping in mind that the money in the budget isn’t sufficient to build a building large enough to hold the entire program. Space will be at a premium and uniqueness of design won’t make up for that.

  4. Peter on April 12, 2010 11:24 pm

    Neal, I appreciate your comments and concern over program and budget – but don’t jump to conclusions. Each of the buildings you saw in our Presentation met program and budget, and had very pleased Users and Clients. It will be so for New Sub as well. Architectural Design is an iterative process, as Kim notes above – of investigation, discussion, drawing, feedback and re-iteration – Program and Budget are givens – and those will not be deviated from. Not all of our buildings are “single volumetric” spaces – but a combination as responsive to Program and social interaction and creating a “whole”. For a social and “working” facility such as the Sub, however, some integrative volume enables “community” and that surely is a goal.

  5. Murray G. Madryga on April 13, 2010 7:36 am

    Having spent a few years at old SUB, I welcome the innovation from this team, both in design and technological aspects. It seems to me the criticisms of their design approach is that it is too innovative, which strikes me as a touch ironic. Do we really want a cookie-cutter SUB? Let’s embrace the future, not try to avoid it.

  6. Jane on April 13, 2010 8:42 am

    Stantec/3XM is the best choice -bar none!Im voting for them.

  7. TJ on April 13, 2010 8:40 pm

    Didn’t Stantec do the Kaiser building?

  8. Rune Nielsen on April 14, 2010 12:14 am

    after thinking about your excellent review of our team for a while, there is one thing that strikes me, and that I would like to address. You wrote, “I can’t help but wonder if they are actually going to engage students or if it will just make it seem like they’ve made an attempt.”

    As you wrote in your reviews of some of the other teams, you were afraid that some teams would underestimate the difficulty of actually getting the students engaged. We know it will be hard. Getting the attention of participants always is, but we have a lot of ideas about how to do this in novel ways, as you also noticed in our presentation. We also believe that we should keep the students engaged by giving them a worthwhile experience. Sipping stale coffee at a meeting might not be the best way to do that, which is why we often prefer to use technology to create a more playful participatory process. On the other hand, when furnishing the future, we wouldn’t want the students to just order from this year’s catalogue – we want to challenge the users! We want to learn from the future users, but we also want to raise the bar and make everybody think seriously out of the box.

    We, the Danish part of our team, are steeped in what some academics call the Scandinavian tradition of design, which at its root is a democratic endeavour. It’s about consensus building, but also about passionately debating what’s important, and making the tough decisions to keep the result as simple and functional as possible. That’s the beauty of it. The Scandinavian design tradition has for a very long time also been about participation, inclusion, involvement, mutual understanding and ownership. That’s what our societies are built upon – why else would we pay half of what we make in taxes ;) Sometimes I think we forget to tell the full story simply because it’s just an integral part of the way we think – and do business.

    At a more tangible level our team has been discussing not only the interactive stuff, social media, and using the website to engage the students. We have also talked about setting up a studio on site in Vancouver at the right times of the process with students actively participating, having students visit Copenhagen (and us at 3XN) as part of exchange programs, having interns at 3XN from Vancouver, doing workshops with students, take part in relevant courses, etc.

    But we also want the actual engagement to be planned in close collaboration with the students. It’s not only the project we want to engage the students in; it’s also the process.

    I hope this alleviated some of your concerns?

    Rune Nielsen Stantec/3XN Team

  9. Peter on April 14, 2010 10:08 am

    TJ – Stantec Architecture did not do the Kaiser Building. Our project Architect, Michael McColl was the project architect, and involved from start to finish, for this project when he was working with Omnicron, they were associated with Architects Alliance for the project.

  10. Rob Nagai, UBCSUO General Manager on April 14, 2010 2:29 pm

    Hello All,

    I was not at the presentation and it has been many years since I have experienced the thrills of AMS council. Though, I have worked with Stantec Architecture- Specifically Ray Wolfe and Mike McColl- on the Student Centre project at UBC Okanagan (the one shown above) for the last four years or so. While the Student Union here was hesitant about our vision being eclipsed by the University’s Vision of what the building should look and function like (the Student Centre is a shared building with SU on the bottom floor and top two floors UBC) Stantec went out of their way to make sure we were accommodated.

    As well we were worried about the cost, but in the end saved money by going with a firm where the Architecture, Engineering and Interior Design was under one roof. Finally and most importantly, they understood what the goals and direction of our Student Union within the huge administration and bureaucracy of UBC, first and foremost that we remain as an independent space on campus owned and driven by students.

    While I was not at the presentation and I am sure there are many gifted architecture firms, I have worked with Stantec and I would recommend using Stantec Architecture to any Student Union.

    If you have any questions relating to my experience please do not hesitate to email me at . I wish you lots of luck in your building endeavour and look forward to the opening of the new AMS building!

    Rob Nagai, GM

  11. Chris on April 16, 2010 11:24 am

    I’d just like to point out that the new UBC Okanagan University Centre has somewhat of a weird design to it… You’d think they would’ve thought to possibly put double doors on the side entrance doors (which have been closed since October) and also in The Well student pub there is a large poll in the middle of the room.

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