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At a Kamloops university, Diamond Schmitt Architects Inc. creates dramatic new space for a law school using the magic of prefabricated wood

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The two-storey Old Main building in Kamloops before and after a Diamond Schmitt Architects Inc. transformation added two floors. “It’s kind of interesting how a university like Thompson Rivers had this big 80,000-square-foot dumpster building that was built by a provincial architect in the 70s who did two kinds of buildings: colleges and prisons – and you can’t necessarily distinguish [between] the two,” architect Donald Schmitt says.

Diamond Schmitt Architects Inc.

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Glass elevator tower at the north entrance. The university feels it has hit upon the “perfect size” for its law school, says vice-president of finance and administration, Matt Milovick. Any higher, he said, and “then you get into elevator loading and crowds in elevators and all those kinds of disruptions.”

Tom Arban

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With clear views of Mount Peter and Mount Paul in the distance, the City of Kamloops lends itself to artistic architectural interpretation.

Diamond Schmitt Architects Inc.

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Mr. Schmitt also found inspiration for the building in this 1945 A.Y. Jackson painting of Mount Paul that he spied in a gallery while on a visit to Kamloops.

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The signature curved roofline, made from pine-beetle-killed wood, reflects the building’s dramatic surroundings and shades the south facade.

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“[When] you have your nose in a book for 12 hours a day, just to have a moment to look up and [see that view], it’s quite breathtaking,” Mr. Milovick says of the law students who now use the building.

Tom Arban

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The design of the new lecture theatre took shape after discussions with neighbouring First Nations. They see gathering spaces in a different way – in stark contrast to the conventional approach to lecture theatres.

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The law school reading room is physically separated from the law school library. “There’s a lot of open spaces where obviously we want to promote students getting together and collaborating on projects,” Mr. Milovick says. Extensive use of wood references the natural and cultural heritage of the region.

Tom Arban

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Mr. Schmitt even put detailed planning into connecting areas. “The whole idea of the space between classes and labs and teaching spaces has become far more important. How do you create the social connection that really is an invaluable part of a learning experience?”

Tom Arban

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The sweeping overhang of the roof is underlit; colours can be changed to reflect different times of year, for example, red and green at Christmas. Read more about campus building trends at link below: Places of higher learning expand up, not out.

Tom Arban

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