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Occupying what was once a parking lot surfaced with mine waste backfill, the 8,155-square-metre building arcs gently around a landscaped, south-facing public space that Corbett describes as Thompson’s “piazza.” To the west, an accessible green roof ramps up and over the daycare and connects to the main four-storey volume.  

In a region where transporting materials is expensive and specialized construction labour is scarce, Architecture49 used what was locally available wherever possible, and selected materials that required little or no finishing. Granite from a nearby quarry clads the ground level and fills the Gabion cages—constructed by non-skilled local labourers—that frame the ramp and enclose the daycare’s play area. Cedar panels, unfinished steel siding and exposed concrete floors were used extensively on this LEED Gold project, which incorporates operable windows on the south side and a cost-efficient dual fuel (electricity and gas) heating system. 

But the educational journeys that UCN offers are still new options for Thompson, and many of its residents have hesitated to embark on them. “We built it for an enrolment of approximately 1,200, and we’re still sitting at around 300 to 400,” says Corbett. “But it’s only been a couple of years. It’s a generational thing that has to happen, and it’s not going to happen overnight.”  [1]

“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." [2]


[1]     Young, Pamela. “Aiming Higher: Ryerson Service Hub, Orchard Commons, University College of the North, Alouette UQAC University Building.” Canadian Architect, June 19, 2019. https://www.canadianarchitect.com/aiming-higher/.

[2]     “University College of the North.” Architecture49. Accessed May 31, 2021. https://architecture49.com/en/portfolio/projects/university-college-of-the-north/.

Additional Information

“LEED Gold-Targeting Campus Built to Climate – REMI Network.” REMINET, July 8, 2015. https://www.reminetwork.com/articles/leed-gold-targeting-campus-built-to-climate/.

“Thompson Campus.” UCN. Accessed May 31, 2021. https://www.ucn.ca/sites/studentdevelopment/Locations/Pages/Thompson-Campus.aspx.

“University College of the North / Architecture49.” ArchDaily. ArchDaily, March 17, 2015. https://www.archdaily.com/607629/university-college-of-the-north-architecture49.

“University College of the North – Thompson.” Crosier, Kilgour & Partners. Accessed May 31, 2021. http://ckpeng.com/structural-design/unc-thompson/.

“University College of the North.” Macleans.ca. Accessed May 31, 2021. https://www.macleans.ca/schools/university-college-of-the-north/.

Project Title: Thompson Campus, University College of the North
Artists:  Architecture49
Place: Thompson, MB

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