Kwantlen Unveils School of Design’s Design

Chip Wilson, founder of Lululemon, Alan Davis, Kwantlen's president, Shannon Wilson, and Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie discuss the design with Alan Davis. -

Chip Wilson, co-founder of Lululemon, Alan Davis, Kwantlen’s president, Shannon Wilson, Lululemon co-founder, and Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie discuss Kwantlen’s soon to be built school of design. August, 2013

News story for the Richmond News

The same architecture firm that ushered Richmond City Hall into the 21st century of modernity, sustainability and energy efficiency will do it again for another of the city’s largest institutions.

During an open house Tuesday evening at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, architect firms KPMB Architects and Public Design gave a sneak peak of what the Chip and Shannon Wilson School of Design will look like.

“This building will make Kwantlen an international destination of fashion and technical apparel,” said KPMB architect Geoffrey Turnbull.

Boasting energy efficiency and green standards, the new $36 million building will give the campus a sleek new look inside and out. Large glazed windows will regulate temperature more efficiently and bring lots of natural light into studio lofts and large warehouse-like project spaces for design students. The building will also have operable windows with natural ventilation and a green roof.

“The goal is to keep (energy consumption) as low as possible,” said Turnbull.

The 4,900-square-metre facility will double the institute’s academic space and also effectively promote more transit and pedestrian use by eliminating 50 parking spaces. It will be built by September 2015 on the northwest corner of campus and attach to the existing main building via a bridge walkway. The design is being touted as one that will draw international praise.

The project’s lead architect Glenn MacMullin of KPMB also helped design Richmond City Hall, which opened in 2000. He said it was not lost on him that the school needed a sharp design given the nature of what the students are studying.

“We’re basically trying to change the image and look of Kwantlen at the Richmond campus and hopefully provide an international building to invite people to it,” said MacMullin.

The building is named after Chip and Shannon Wilson, the founders of the powerhouse clothing company Lululemon and one of the wealthiest couples in Canada. They donated $8 million to the project while Lululemon added another $4 million. To round out the budget, the provincial government and KPU are each contributing $12 million.

“The donation stems from our love of product and design and wanting Greater Vancouver to own technical design,” said Shannon Wilson.

Both Wilsons said the decision to donate to KPU was also in part because Lululemon has hired many of the school’s graduates and because the school already has a good academic foundation.

The donation has not been lost on the student body.

“Now I think we will have the facilities that will support and really strengthen the curriculum. I really thank Chip and Shannon,” said fourth year interior design student Taryn Chisholm, who is a student representative for the project.

While best known for its annual fashion show, the design school’s expanding programs are not exclusive to the trendy fashionista. Programs range from design marketing, interior design, product design and technical design. While one student may be designing the next (non see-through) yoga pant another student may be working on anything from a ski boot to a kayak.

“If (fashion or interior designers) have access to the technical aspects it will enrich what they’re learning and what they can offer in other areas of design,” said Shannon.

Chip quipped that the best designed bra is probably the result of a feminine designer and a civil engineer — one that is attractive but functional.

The building will increase the program’s enrolment by about 50 per cent, according to a government statement. Currently, about 350 students are enrolled in the programs.

The expansion will pave the way for growth elsewhere, such as bringing in more international students and programs.

“When they move out, there will be space for new programs,” said Gordon Lee, vice-president of academics at KPU.

Mayor Malcolm Brodie also noted the new building will foster growth in the city.

“It’s going to bring in students and it will bring in investments. …When an institution in our city does well then the whole city benefits from that and this is a great example,” said Brodie.