Buchanan Courtyard Pavilion

Merit Award

As part of a larger courtyard renovation project, PUBLIC: Architecture was asked to create a visual expression of what it means to study arts at the University of British Columbia. The Faculty of Arts consists of 26 schools, from Economics to Classical, Near Eastern, and Religious Studies. To craft a singular message of interconnectedness, PUBLIC asked faculty representatives to supply a quote or phrase that struck at the core value of their field of study.

Philosophy’s submission referring to an ancient Greek reflecting pool and its qualities of reflection and self-examination led the design team to the foot of a new concrete pavilion at the edge of a courtyard designed for large-scale celebrations and the exchange of ideas. The pavilion, also designed by PUBLIC, anchors the space and provides a stage for performances and festivals. A shallow skim of water extends from the base in all directions.

PUBLIC rendered the quotes within the pool, arranging them in concentric rings of text facing both inward and outward—more than 8,000 characters set in 11 languages across seven different alphabets. The graphics were prepared using a computer-cut vinyl resist laid over concrete, which was micro sandblasted and filled with white epoxy resin. The pool surface was then treated with a black wash to highlight the text. The combination of architectural form and typography connects both literal and conceptual aspects of the Arts to form a dynamic revitalized place on campus. The results were so well received by the faculty that PUBLIC was asked to develop a new visual identity for UBC Arts based on the environmental graphics.

Jury Comments: 

“The integration of architecture and the theme of unified disciplines are delivered with power and restraint.”

“Strong sense of materiality, bold and confident interpretation of a challenging brief. A contemplative space that confidently responds to the angular folded forms of the courtyard architecture through the reflective nature of the black water. The concentric text reinforces the ripple effect of the water, serving to further anchor the pavilion. The inclusion of the quotations reinforce the sense of place and beautifully complement the contemplative nature of the setting.”

“The pool confidently complements the architecture and creates a quiet place for reflection and contemplation.”

Design Firm: 

PUBLIC: Architecture


University of British Columbia

Location City: 

Vancouver, Canada

Open Date: 

September, 2011

Photo Credits: 

Nic Lehoux, Mark Stokoe

Design Team: 

Susan Mavor (principal, communication design); Brian Wakelin, John Wall (principal, architects); Scot Geib, Mark Stokoe (typography); Phillips, Farevaag, Smallenburg, (Landscape Architects)




Innovative Signage Inc.: John Peachey & Associates (signage fabrication), Scott Construction (pavilion, courtyard, pool)

Related Links: 

New Member Offer

Click to access the 2020 "Never been an SEGD member before" $185 sign up offer

Upcoming SEGD Events

2023 SEGD Academic Summit
2023 Experience Washington D.C.
2023 Branded Environments