Big news for B.C.’s Thompson Rivers University

The mountainous setting of Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, British Columbia, provided inspiration for the winning design to revitalize a building at the heart of the campus.

The university selected a joint venture between Diamond and Schmitt Architects and Stantec to create a vibrant centre for student life that will also house the first new law school in Canada in 30 years.

“Our design for the law school is shaped by the topography of Mount Peter and Mount Paul, sacred ground for First Nations seen from the site,” says Donald Schmitt, a principal at Diamond and Schmitt Architects. A sweeping and undulating roofline above 40,000 square-feet of new learning space will mirror the curves of the mountain peaks on the Kamloops horizon. A further inspiration for the design was the painting Mount Paul by A.Y. Jackson of Canada’s renowned artist collective the Group of Seven — which is in the collection of the Kamloops Art Gallery.

“I think the concept that has been developed is certainly imaginative and is in harmony with the location,” says TRU president and vice-chancellor Dr. Alan Shaver. “It will serve as a striking home for Canada’s newest law school.”

The new building, to be called Main Hall, will contain common space for use by all students at this fast-growing university in central British Columbia and is designed to meet TRU’s exacting standards.

“State-of-the-art prefabricated wall and roof elements made on site enclose tall, open and inspirational indoor space,” says Schmitt, adding “the design is grounded in the sustainable re-use of pine beetle kill wood harvested locally.”

In order to minimize impact to the campus and student body, construction of many of the components will take place offsite during the winter of 2011/12. On-site construction will commence next spring with the completion of the shell targeted for June. The firms will submit completed, detailed working drawings for the third and fourth floor by Aug. 31.

The total estimated cost for the revitalization is $20 million, with the construction of the shell and the completion of the interior each budgeted at $10 million and to be raised through public-private fundraising.

Cliff Neufeld, TRU vice-president of Administration and Finance, said the revitalization is long overdue. “We think this will be a remarkable transformation for the building and you will not recognize it as the same building it is now,” Neufeld says.

“The founding of a new a law school, especially one outside of a major urban centre, is important for the B.C. interior, for the province and for Canadians across the country,” says founding dean Chris Axworthy Q.C.

Diamond and Schmitt Architects ( is a leading Canadian full-service architectural practice and is the recipient of more than 200 awards, including six Governor General’s Awards for Architecture. The firm is recognized for sustainable design expertise in academic and research buildings, the performing arts, healthcare facilities, residential and recreational properties.