University of British Columbia Aquatic Centre, Vancouver

MJMA, Toronto / Acton Ostry Architects, Vancouver

Photography by Shai Gil and Ema Peter

The new University of British Columbia Aquatic Centre serves two user groups: elite athletes in training and competition (UBC sent more swimmers to the 2012 Summer Olympics than anywhere else in Canada); and students and “townies.” A central spine of Y-shaped columns and continuous skylight bisects the LEED-Gold building lengthwise, providing a virtual separation of the two groups’ facilities. These include a competition pool, a diving well with moveable floor, a warm-water leisure pool, hot tub, multi-purpose rooms and spectator seating. Angular massing, a soaring roof canopy and extensive glazing combine to create a dynamic form that reveals activities taking place within, including swimmers showering in their bathing attire, a consequence of the politically correct but impractical programming of unisex lockers and showers. A more felicitous vignette is the diving-board backed by a wall whose pixelated mixture of white and dark-and-light blue miniature ceramic tiles evokes splashing water.