Understorey: the Ponderosa Hub

Design for a new Student Commons & Residence and University Avenue
with Blake Costley.

As part of an exploration in occupation of public and private spaces, the buildings on the new Ponderosa Hub site on the University of British Columbia campus, named for the heritage Ponderosa tree, required diverse program mixing and adjacencies. A new building typology, the hub design consists of a five storey and six storey building connected by a glass atrium as well as a landscaping plan for the building courtyard and Main Mall: the University’s secondary axis. The designs center around the application of solid-void relationships in landscape and building, program, and circulation.

Programmatic studies

SMLXL: from dormitory to landscape axis

Ponderosa IconPonderosa Process Sketch
Schematic Process Sketches


The landscape plan is a rescaled version of the sea to sky progression of Vancouver applied to the 15m slope increase along 300m of Main Mall. Active and passive outdoor activities are placed into “ocean,” “urban,” “forest,” and “mountain” environments based on adjacent interior building program crossed by lines of “desire paths.”


The 200 student dormitories are based on a study of student occupation at UBC’s seven existing residences by Thompson, Berwick, and Pratt, the University of Toronto’s Graduate House by Morphosis, and Unite de Marseilles by Le Corbusier.

By using a single loaded, semi-skip-skop circulation, each student’s room gains privacy, views, natural light, and a townhouse sense of elevation in apartment-style housing. The residences connect to the public hub programming through a second floor bridge to the commuter student hub, meeting educational facilities, dining space, and a daycare linked through a three storey public atrium.

Further Projects