Inside the completed McEwan School of Architecture in Sudbury

interior looking over rail
© Bob Gundu/ LGA Architecture Partners

It's partially built out of Cross Laminated Timber; it "immerses students in this relatively new product."

CLT wallsLloyd Alter/ CLT in Sudbury/CC BY 2.0

Three years ago I visited what was then a pile of Cross-Laminated Timber being assembled into an architecture school in Sudbury, Ontario, designed by LGA Architectural Partners. It was the first major CLT building in the province, containing 550 cubic meters (19423 cubic feet) of wood, which Woodworks! said would grow in North America in about two minutes. It will store 389 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

exterior in evening© Bob Gundu/ LGA Architecture Partners

And now it is complete, known as the McEwen School of Architecture at Laurentian University, with a curriculum that "emphasizes architecture and fabrication techniques focused on the traditional and evolving aspects of life in the north, including Indigenous culture, wood construction, local ecologies and resources, and design for the impact of climate change."

McEwan Architecture Exterior© Bob Gundu/ LGA Architecture Partners

Built beside the tracks of what was a major railway and mining town, Sudbury has changed so much. Half a century ago the story goes that pollution from the nickel mine made it so desolate that astronauts trained for the moon there (but mainly because it was a meteor impact site with fascinating geology); today it is clean and green.

interior looking over rail© Bob Gundu/ LGA Architecture Partners

LGA Architectural partners is quoted in ArchDaily:

Sudbury is a mid-sized, northern city known for nickel mining, with vibrant English, French and Indigenous communities. And while Sudbury is not extremely remote in latitude, its distance from other cities, and its separation by water, rock and forest makes it feel quite remote. And so the design challenge was to realize a school that would be responsive to this place: a teaching laboratory for the advancement of sustainable, community-driven design in northern climates; a stimulus and vibrant think-tank for downtown Sudbury; and an educational hub with a mandate to serve a tri-cultural community.

Crit pit© Bob Gundu/ LGA Architecture Partners

There are different components to the project; a "FabLab" is located in an old rail shed, staff offices in the old ticketing and telegraph offices, while a new steel and concrete building contains the design studios and a "crit pit" (Crits are where architecture students present their work and get pulled to pieces by their professors).

draughting studio© Bob Gundu/ LGA Architecture Partners

It is surprising to see that they all have parallel rules on green Borco board cover, just like I had years ago before computers. And not a computer in sight!

library in wood© Bob Gundu/ LGA Architecture Partners

The CLT wing includes the auditorium and library, and "immerses students in this relatively new product that is poised to have a tremendous impact on local construction." Sudbury is surrounded by forests, and the school's focus on wood construction puts it at the forefront of the latest green architectural technology, although good luck designing with it by hand on a drafting board.

library seating© Bob Gundu/ LGA Architecture Partners

As I noted in an earlier slideshow, the CLT was gorgeous, beautifully put together. You can still see much of it inside, and I suspect that in a cold Sudbury winter this is one of the warmest and most comfortable spots in town.

Last word goes to founding partner Janna Levitt:

As a discipline, architecture embodies the ideologies of optimism and determinism: the belief that our physical environment both shapes and influences who we are and how we will respond to the world. For this reason, creating a new school of architecture — one that is northern in identity, demanding a dialogue between site, climate and cultural inclusion — was an exhilarating design opportunity. Our approach is very Canadian and also universal in perspective.

Inside the completed McEwan School of Architecture in Sudbury
It's partially built out of Cross Laminated Timber; it "immerses students in this relatively new product."

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