University of British Columbia

Mid-century buildings

The campus at the University of British Columbia is a modernist’s dream, so pack a lunch and spend an afternoon getting schooled.

Founded in 1908, UBC moved to its current Point Grey location in the 1920s where it began with only 3 permanent buildings. After World War II the student body tripled and continued to grow, as did new faculties and – lucky for us – the construction of mid-century modern buildings, many of which were designed by Thompson, Berwick & Pratt.

If you start at the North end of the East Mall you can meander through the Buchanan building complex, a beautiful cluster of International Style buildings and one equally elegant Brutalist tower. Then, on the Main Mall, stroll south and take in any number of mid-century structures.

Modernism on this campus will reveal itself (everywhere), just take your time to explore. Here’s a quick list of some of our favorites with corresponding photos… click on addresses below for Google Map locations.

Brock Hall Annex (1874 East Mall) – Designed by Thompson, Berwick & Pratt, 1956. Although this 3-story concrete, grey glazed structure has seen better days, it’s worth a look for the stunning mid-century mosaic mural “Symbols of Education” by artist Lionel Thomas, located in the building’s South side courtyard.

Buchanan Tower (1873 East Mall) – Designed by Toby, Russell, Buckwell & Assoc., 1970-72, this gridded concrete brutalist building exists on three main planes and is reminiscent of Arthur Erickson’s 1968 MacMillan Bloedel tower. It’s currently the tallest building on campus.

Buchanan Building (1866 Main Mall) – Designed by Thompson, Berwick & Pratt, 1956-58, with additions in 1960 and 1968, this 5-wing building was said to have been influenced by the architecture of Mies Van Der Rohe and the master plan of Illinois’ Institute of Technology. Either way, it’s simple and stunning and a must-see.

Ladner Clock Tower (1956 Main Mall) – Dr. Leon Ladner donated the funds to build this 121 ft. tall rectangular shaped concrete clock tower, built to honor B.C.’s pioneers. Designed by Thompson, Berwick, Pratt & Partners in 1968.

Science/Chemistry Building (2036 Main Mall) – Designed by Sharp & Thompson in 1914, the gothic revival-style D Block building sat unfinished for nearly 10 years (delayed by the outbreak of WW I) and was completed in 1925 after a massive student protestThe original buildings were added onto in the modernist style (B, C and E Blocks) between 1958-62 by Sharp & Thompson with reinforced concrete and grey glazed brick. The juxtaposition of the structures work very nicely together.

Henry Angus Building (2053 Main Mall) – Designed in 1965 by Thompson, Berwick & Pratt, this pre-cast concrete building was UBC’s first self-proclaimed campus “skyscraper” and named for Dr. Henry Forbes Angus. In 1976 additions were added by Reno C. Negrin and Associates.

Frederick Lasserre Building (6333 Memorial Rd.) – Named for the first director of the UBC School of Architecture, this exquisite International Style building opened in 1962 and was designed by Thompson, Berwick & Pratt. It’s gorgeous.

Music Building (6361 Memorial Rd.) – Designed by Gardiner, Thornton, Davidson, Garrett, Masson & Associates in 1966-68, this is a 4-story brick & concrete, brutalist building which houses a recital hall, rehearsal studios and a music library.

Faculty Club (6331 Crescent Rd.) – Walk behind the Music building, past the gorgeous Frederick Wood theatre, c. 1963, to find this Frederic Lasserre-designed building, c. 1958, which, shortly after its opening the following year hosted a dinner for visiting Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. In 1999, the building was reopened as the Leon and Thea Koerner University Centre and still boasts its distinctive folded plate roof porte-cochere entry.

Thea Koerner House (6371 Crescent Rd.) – Next to the Faculty Club (University Centre) is this handsome Graduate Student Centre designed in 1961 by Thompson, Berwick & Pratt, and winner of the Massey Medal for Architecture. Additions were made in 1971 by architect Zoltan Kiss.

International House (1783 West Mall) – Designed by UBC School of Architecture director, Frederic Lasserre, and opened in 1957, this mid-century gem (just beyond the Thea Koerner House building) sits nestled at the base of a forested area and serves as a recreational facility for international students.

We’ll be adding more modernist UBC buildings when we can, in the meantime you can check out their online interactive map which will help to find what you’re looking for, just click here.

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