University of British Columbia – Quantum Matter Institute

  • area / size 53,819 sqft
  • Completed 2017
  • Location Vancouver, Canada,
  • PUBLIC Architecture + Communication was engaged by the University of British Columbia to design the Quantum Matter Institute located in Vancouver, Canada.

    The Quantum Matter Institute houses an interdisciplinary group of researchers that study things at the atomic scale. Situated in the Applied Science Precinct of the University of British Columbia (UBC) campus, this slender corner addition is both a gateway and a connector. The QMI creates a new portal to the precinct, serves as a new formal entrance to the Advanced Materials and Process Engineering Laboratory (AMPEL) and collocates quantum researchers for the first time, creating the potential for research synergies in this ground-breaking field. Just as silicone was the basis of a microelectronics revolution, quantum research could lead to new industries in fields such as electronics, solar energy, and medicine.

    The QMI creates its own identity while enhancing the integrity of its neighbours. The white brick cladding mixed with black and grey relates to the campus palette while revealing the chemical compound of the crystal lattices that form the foundation for the majority of QMI’s research. The corners of the building have been chamfered as required for site constraints and reveal a crystal structure of corbelled masonry. As if affected by a giant magnet, all of the bricks align from north to south.

    Quantum research is best carried out underground because vibrations from sources as insignificant as a footstep can ruin an experiment. QMI has four underground vaults and a series of above-ground laboratories that provide a high degree of control over the environment. To ensure the vibration performance of these predictable spaces, the entire building is decoupled from its site with isolation pads and absorptive membranes below grade and the laboratories are stacked in a reinforced concrete structure designed to be as stiff as possible. The laboratories are designed to support long-term flexibility, acting as re-configurable stages upon which new research activities can unfold.

    While quantum experiments flourish in vacuum chambers, the growth of quantum ideas does not. Integration between researchers is essential for new discoveries. Taking inspiration from the crystal lattices – “the interfaces are where things get interesting,” according to one researcher – the building fosters a fluid work flow by laminating predictable lab space with unpredictable offices, meeting rooms and lounges. Every time QMI users enter or leave a floor, they are momentarily taken out of their routine as they pass through a gathering space that skews and transforms the pragmatic. These gathering spaces are located at the junctures where the QMI and AMPEL meet, becoming platforms for social interaction and the cross-pollination of ideas.

    The QMI has been registered with the CAGBC and is pursuing certification at the gold level. The project team’s largest hurdle to overcome was reducing the energy consumption required by laboratory process loads. Key strategies included minimizing the number of air changes in laboratories and implementing a fume hood sash management program.

    ArchitectPUBLIC Architecture + Communication
    Design Team: Angela Enman, Courtney Healey, Laura Killam, Susan Mavor, Warren Scheske, Craig Simms, Mike Thicke, Brian Wakelin, John Wall
    Photography: Martin Tessler