badda bing, badda HBBH+BH

Don’t forget to vote for your SUB architect today. I went to a couple of the presentations and then watched all the videos, and these are my thoughts. All in all, I think that there were two standout firms, Bing Thom and HBBH+BH. They get what it means to be a student here, and they seem to understand the ways that we need to be engaged to make this a student project. I didn’t really care that much for the others, but if I had to pick, my final ballot would be:

  1. Bing Thom – far and away the most amazing. for an icon, its gotta be bing.
  2. HBBH+BH – i almost hope they don’t win, because their name is a pain to type
  3. Busby Perkins+Will – buchanan is nice…

Bunting Coady

During their entire presentation they seem like they are terrified to be presenting to us. They had an interesting presentation, but a lot of what they’ve done seems to be that kind of glass box thing that is already ubiquitous at UBC. I don’t really want another Ladha Centre, as awesome as that building is.

Busby Perkins+Will

I like the Buchanan renovation – it’s interesting, and a lot of what they do looks wierd (read: good). I want an iconic building, one that will define UBC. They have some really cool designs. Something that kind of nags at me is the fact that they have done a lot of student union buildings before, so I worry slightly that they are going to come into it with a lot of preconceptions. Mind you, that’s not necessarily a bad thing – are we really that different from everyone else?

Bing Thom

This blew me away. The process that they go through, in terms of collaboration and holistics, is something that I think will really make the AMS an integral part of the process. I LOVE the fact that they went into the archives to check out what the AMS experience was when the current SUB opened. BTA has the most wonderful designs of any of the architects, far and away – if we want an iconic building BTA is your best bet. They seemed to be the only folks to get the idea of sustainability right – they have a holistic view, and one that seems like will produce, generally, a better final product.


These are interestingly enthusiastic people. The design cube is a pretty cool, and belies that kind of understanding of the AMS and the student experience that is integral (in my mind) for a good architect. Their website for the project is a great idea. They are really focused on sustainability, which is cool, though, too be honest, I tend to prioritize programming over sustainability. They did build Marine Drive, so that’s a strike against. Oh, but one of the guys goes to Burning Man. So, there we go.

Cannon Design

I remember the Davids of Cannon being around when I was an exec. I didn’t really have any interaction with them byond the perfunctory. Oooh, Jeff Friedrich is in their video! Darren Peets too! It’s a veritable parliament of hacks. (That’s what hacks come in – parliaments. We’re like owls.) They… are ok. Nothing really bugs me, but nothing seems to stand out either. Again with the focus on sustainability – I feel that if the sustainability of the building is the most important thing, you might as well not build the building. Programming has to come first, and the sustainability has to be integrated.

Henriquez Partners Architects / IBI Group

They have some cool looking buildings, but, and I think that this is just my sense of style. If you like the stuff that they do, you should consider them. They seem to have the third best method of integrating themselves into the community. They have a broad idea of what the consultation structure would look like, but they didn’t really seem to demonstrate that they get students as students.


I didn’t like this presentation. The bizarre robot voice (oh, wait, it seems like it was a bad microphone) seemed like it was just spewing buzzword salad. They didn’t really talk about what they saw the process looking like, or how they would ensure that this was going to be a student centered project. Their presentation seemed more like a demonstration of their ability to create cool looking pods-structures. That’s grand, and the stuff is nifty looking (although they seem to vacillate between the amazing sweeping structures and BOXBOXBOX.  carbon-negative-gives-back environmental-ecology-is-perpetual there-is-no-waste we-are-the-borg resistance-is-futile (This one’s a no…)


3 Responses to “badda bing, badda HBBH+BH”

  1. 1 Jeff Friedrich
    April 15, 2010 at 8:41 am

    i’ll bite and pleasantly disagree. its not a disagreement with your choice of bing or of your rejection of cannon- i m pretty agnostic about the firms b/c they all seem the same (my own experience working with Cannon was very positive, but i can also say positive things about some of the other firms i ve had limited interactions with). i think its hard to make a sufficiently informed choice in this kind election.

    What I disagree with- I guess I think of sustainability as a constraint rather than a ‘priority.’ It’s the same as a budget, really. I think you’ve set up a false choice in this statement:

    “Again with the focus on sustainability – I feel that if the sustainability of the building is the most important thing, you might as well not build the building. Programming has to come first, and the sustainability has to be integrated.”

    Integrating sustainability as a feature of a project isn’t really sustainability. Sustainability is a concept of not living beyond natural means- that means assesing total impact of the project against available capital/savings of the surrounding natural world. There is overwhelming evidence that we are living beyond the means of the earth’s ability to naturally recycle co2. Additionally, there is evidence that emissions should peak in the next decade or so if we are to avoid catastrophic effects, and more powerful institutions then the AMS seem incapable of moving towards the necessary actions.

    More cynical people would challenge me for intellectualizing this local issue- I do so because students expect more of institutions working on these issue, so we should demonstrate leadership via our own power structures; because of the general urgency of these issues; because it’s a university in a town that purports to ecological values, and so we should be on the leading edge of solving the problem; and b/c a student union building is at the end of the day a luxury emission- we owe more diligence b/c we can afford to do so, and people would survive w/out the project.

    i think a more interesting way of viewing the project is to embrace the sustainability challenge and work to optimize program from that starting point. i think more students will get engaged from that process and the project, and the ams, will create larger social impact.

  2. April 15, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    If RBT readers would like to read about the first days of the current SUB, BTA has posted it on BTAworks, its R&D Division’s blog @ http://www.btaworks.com/?p=306

    BTW, in the pdf package, there is a distinct warning from the “SUB Management Committee” against student participation in a “Pub-in” which would eventually through the hard work of UBC students and faculty establish the Pit Pub in 1973….5 years after the current SUB’s doors opened.


  3. 3 Matthew Naylor
    April 17, 2010 at 10:02 am

    I actually would tend to agree with Jeff on most of what he said. My hangup was with the way that things are being presented to us – I think we have a right to expect from our architect that the building is going to be sustainable, and it’s important that the architect mention this. But Jeff is right when he says the sustainability approach should be more like a budget. The point that I have is that no architect spent time telling us how ‘on budget’ they were going to be – we would have laughed them out of the room. The presentations that I saw gave me the impression that people thought we were building a building for the purpose of that building being sustainable, which is somewhat a of a contradiction in terms.

    I liked Bing Thom because their presentation focused on how they were going to achieve our programming needs and incorporate the sustainability requirement into their design. I wouldn’t really say that I ‘rejected’ Cannon – my very limited interactions with them were always pleasant. I just ended up picking someone else.

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