Buchanan Courtyard, UBC


A prime piece of fifties “Modernist” architecture in its day, the University of British Columbia’s Buchanan Building has been fully restored. It faces onto an expansive courtyard plaza that is a major channel of student and visitor traffic. Here, public seating is an essential element of the space. The design firm of Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg devised an elegant solution; equal parts public seating and public art.

Based loosely on “space-age” shapes that fit both eras, the work is a stylistic bridge between Fifties aesthetics and those of the present day. Translucent, amoeba-like acrylic shapes float over off-center bases, yet are absolutely stable and balanced, even when under a great load. The shapes are not fixed and swivel into multiple configurations for a more conversational arrangement.

As night falls, the translucent acrylic seats begin to fill with light until they’re fully aglow. The entire appearance changes, as the edges radiate. Day and night, this courtyard has become a wildly popular gathering place


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