University of British Columbia

Irving. K. Barber Learning Centre

Vanouver, British Columbia

The mission of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre is to enhance access to information, knowledge, and innovative teaching through the support of learning and research on an interactive basis with people in British Columbia and throughout the world. Our task was to create an all encompassing contemporary learning center and library that could be integrated with the existing 1925 Heritage Core of the Main Library. The issues of more space for students, collections, technology and expanded services, for the present and future, were also addressed. The project included complete renovation of the Heritage Core along with a major new addition, replacing those portions of the building constructed in the 1940s and ‘60s. A major aspect of the design approach is the highly transparent building, celebrating the activities inside. On the west side, the new additions incorporate a pre-cast concrete base with a regular rhythm of piers linking the new construction to the solid masonry presence of the Heritage Core.

Project Data

265,000 sf (234,000 new construction; 31,000 sf renovation)

Program & Highlights

Automatic Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS)
Storage capacity of 2.1 m volumes
Chapman learning commons
Seminar/project rooms
Group study rooms
Reading rooms
Interactive classroom/conference room
Special collections and archives


“2006 Showcase of New and Renovated Facilities,” American Libraries, April 2006


Associate Architect: Downs/Archambault & Partners
Construction Manager: Ledcor Design-Build (B.C.) Inc.
Structural Engineeer: Jones-Kwong-Kishi Consulting Engineeers
Mechanical Engineer: Earth Tech
Electrical Engineer: Robert Freundlich & Associates, Ltd.
Acoustics: Daniel Lyzun & Associates, LTD
Photographer: Lara Swimmer

“The Learning Centre project has completely revived the centre of campus and has become a hub for students, faculty and staff, as well as a destination for visitors to UBC. The combination of teaching and learning spaces, library resources and services, as well as unique features like the Chung Collection, Chapman Learning Commons, Ike’s Cafe and a number of signature works of art have made the Learning Centre a showpiece for the UBC Library and entire campus.”
— Sandra Singh, Director, Irving K. Barber Learning Centre

The Heritage Core, center, was retained and renovated.
Automatic Storage and Retreival System (ASRS)