University College of the North – Thompson Manitoba Campus

The University College of the North, designed by Winnipeg-based Architecture49, is located in a region of Manitoba abundant in natural resources, beautiful lakes, rivers, forests and minerals; serving communities steeped in Aboriginal cultures and traditions. Established in 2004, UCN is a unique post-secondary institution offering trades, adult education, certificate, diploma and university degree granting programs.

The new campus building has a floor area of 87,780sf, and was designed and built in conjunction with renovations to the existing Thompson Regional Community Centre on site, to create a ‘town centre’. The two buildings are connected, sharing amenities such as food services, Gymnasium, Day Care and Library. The campus building is a four-storey structure with visual and spiritual connection to the Burntwood River on the north side of the site.

The south façade is the public face of the new campus as you enter the site. Conceptually it is transparent, reflective of the educational and community programs contained within. The curvature of the footprint creates a welcoming gathering place with southern exposure, protected from the north winter winds.

The design intent was to simplify the materiality of the building, using materials that relate to the region, and aboriginal cultural values. With this in mind, the building utilized local granite, wood, high performance curtain-wall systems and metal cladding. Green roofs, sloping up from grade level, will provide a natural outdoor environment for students and staff, and give the appearance the building grows out of the land. A dramatic and welcoming two-storey main entrance strengthens the connection to the Community Centre, and act as the central meeting area.

Further, the south facade of the building has a striking array of horizontal solar slats enclosing levels three and four that will form the architectural ‘signature facade’. The slats were inspired by the vernacular aboriginal slat building techniques and the slat craftsmanship of the canoes used by native peoples for transportation on the Burntwood River.

Architecture has a social responsibility. The design intent was to express the community’s values through architecture. Aboriginal youth are the fastest growing demographic in Canada. Lack of access to good education is a major problem facing First Nations. The UCN campus is an inviting destination that inspires and connects the community, and makes the First Nation students feel welcome.


Building Area:                                       87,780sf (8,155sm)

Building Height:                                     4 storeys

Building Construction cost:                    $ 55,000,000

Construction cost with site work             $ 61,000,000

Construction Schedule:                          36 months


  • Integrated Design Team


Owners                                     Manitoba Infrastructure & Transportation

Clients                                      University College of the North


Architect                                   Architecture49 Inc. (formerly Smith Carter Architects)

Interiors & Furniture                   Architecture49 Inc. (formerly Smith Carter Architects)

Lanscape Architect                    Architecture49 Inc. (formerly Smith Carter Architects)

Structural Engineer                    Crosier Kilgour & Partners Ltd.

Mechanical Engineer                  WSP (formerly Smith Carter Architects & Engineers)

Electrical Engineer                     WSP (formerly Smith Carter Architects & Engineers)

Civil Engineer                            Neegan Burnside Ltd.

Energy Engineer                        GF Shymko & Associates Inc

LEED Consultant                       Morrison Hershfield

Acoustic Consultant                  Dan Lyzun & Associates Ltd.

Code Consultant                       LMDG Building Code Consultants Ltd.

3D Visualizer                             Norm Li AG & I Inc.

Artist/Carver                              Northern Buffalo Sculpture



Construction Manager                PCL Constructors Canada

Electrical Contractor                  Wescan

Mechanical Contractor               Wescan

Glazing & Curtain Wall               Border Group of Companies Inc.

Masonry & Cladding                  Gracom

Roofing & Green Roof               Oakwood Roofing & Sheet Metal

Roads & Site Work                    Smook Contractors Ltd.

Drywall & Interiors                     QSI Interiors Ltd.

Millwork                                    FC Woodworks

Steel Fabrication                       Abesco

Precast Concrete                       Haywood

Painting                                    Valour Decorating

Gabion walls                             Lakefront Restorers

Floors & Tile                             Fabris Milano Group

Flooring                                    Imperial Flooring

Landscaping                             Len’s Landscaping

Concrete                                   PCL Concrete


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