University of British Columbia (Courtney)



Aug '08 - May '09

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    LuPha achieves UBC homepage fame...

    Last week, I went on the general UBC website... to pay my… ahem… overdue tuition and this was the freaky photo on the homepage...

    image UBC's school of midwifery

    Today it is the School of Architecture! Woohoo! A rare acknowledgement on the part of the larger University community...

    image view from entrance

    The big attention getter is Lu's, A Pharmacy for Women. A project that started out as a seminar about a year and a half ago, researching the proliferation of new pharmacies on the Downtown East Side of Vancouver, Canada's poorest postal code, with the highest incidence of HIV in the nation. The seminar uncovered a link in the type and number of pharmacies in this neighborhood to a deregulation on methadone distribution in 1997. Since then, dozens of quick and dirty tiny "pharmacies" cropped up offering little more than Dixie cups full of Kool-Aid coloured methadone. On the outside, this may seem like a good thing, however, the dark side is that most methadone recipients receive their prescriptions weekly through the public health authority, who offers a $10 incentive per prescription, creating little incentive for these pharmacies to offer the basic breadth of services, information and medications available in other neighborhoods... I could go on and on, but most of this research is now available in the recently published book… supposedly available now…

    image 29 East Hastings Street, existing condition

    The next phase was a design-build studio in Spring 2008, which was my final studio requirement. UBC doesn't have a history of design-build, so there were quite a few growing pains, and the project has since continued into a summer seminar, and is still chugging along into this Fall semester. A handful of passionate students have been with the project from day one, and rumor has it that construction will be completed this fall... stay tuned...


    image LuPha diagram

    Since my involvement has been limited to the studio portion, I'll limit my explanation to that... We started by individually brainstorming ideas for the new home of the Vancouver Women's Health Collective and their new social enterprise Pharmacy. They would occupy an historic storefront in the former center of Vancouver's downtown, East Hastings Street, which has since become the centre for the cities homeless and drug addicted population. Stan Douglas produced a beautiful little photo essay on the 100 Block of Hastings in 2003. So issues of preservation and restoration, complicated by increased pressure from nearby high-profile projects and the City's overall strategy for revitalization.

    The new space was about 30% bigger than the total program required so we were invited to suggest additional programming, with most people settling on a flexible wellness centre program. We formed teams of 2 and proceeded with a competition for the "winning design" 6 projects were presented to a mixed panel of faculty, the client organization, building management, local professionals and various experts. Because of the historic nature of the site, we were also applying for Heritage restoration grants, facade restoration grants, and green building grants to enhance the amount of daylight in the long narrow tube-like storefront.

    We voted and chose one project, which promptly began to be broken apart and infused with elements from all of the other projects... lets just say there were a few ugly moments and plenty of emotional freak-outs. After endless round table discussions nearly every day of the week, trying to gain some sort of consensus on the basic scope of the project, in the midst of unsure funding and difficult clients, we eventually formed four teams that would focus on 1. Facade, 2. Pharmacy, 3. Wellness Centre, 4. VWHC offices

    We continued on like this, with various splintered sub-groups and team-reorganizations, until the end of the semester when we elected a project leader in the last two weeks, and devised a strategy for the final production of drawings and models. Each person became responsible for a specific task, and in the end we presented one project, with people speaking to their own work along the length of an epic 50-foot long poster.

    Below are my final images and drawings of the pharmacy presented for the studio review in April, from what I can tell, things have changed quite a bit, I’m curious to see the progress when I get back next week.

    image drawings for the BC College of Pharmacists

    image section through counter

    image counter detail renders

    image counter display detail

    I'm curious how design-build happens in other schools, particularly the money and organizational components. I continue to question UBC's endorsement of nearly two years of free student labour on a single small interior project, not necessarily the design and construction labour, but in the students’ role as the primary fundraiser for the project, organizing events, benefit dinners, donation campaigns, grant writing, etc. When it comes down to it, the client had enough money of their own to build the pharmacy and could have easily set up a few partition walls, painted and moved in their existing office furniture. The participants have been fundraising primarily for the design, is this strange?



    • neuteredpoodle
      Nov 20, 08 12:43 am

      Hey Courtney

      Interesting post. I'm in the process of applying the arch schools and am strongly considering UBC. I'm very much interested in the design/build aspect of the program and would love to hear more of your thoughts on how the program succeeds/fails in this aspect. I might also like to hear, more generally your thoughts on the program and how happy you have been w/ it.

      Just leave a comment or let me know if you want to PM me and I'll send you my email

      ps. are you an Int. Designer or an Arch?

      Courtney Healey
      Mar 7, 09 2:10 pm

      Hi neuteredpoodle,

      sorry i never received your comment... but i'm guessing you've already applied and heard back from some schools by now... sorry i couldn't be more help...

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