Quest University Plan & Design

Into the wild: altering the student perspective


Quest University, placed and operating on ancestral lands of the Squamish Nation, is in the heart of Sea to Sky country. The project began with a master plan, which led to new construction consisting of a recreation centre, a learning centre, a 350-seat dining hall, and an academic building. The juxtaposition of the campus and the mountainside created an opportunity for design focused on breathtaking views and inspired academia. Sustainable design lies at the core of the strategy, with, for example, geothermal energy distributed through a radiant slab system as the main energy source.

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Squamish, BC
18,450 sq ft
Quest University Canada

AES Engineering
Scott Construction Group
Bush, Bohlman & Partners

DIALOG Services

Planning & Urban Design

Integrated planning

The intimate university setting is enhanced by public spaces that are focused on the natural surroundings and framed by a linked series of small-scale buildings.

Academic program requirements

Quest delivers curriculum through an innovative ‘block plan.’ Students and Tutors are engaged in one course at a time in short ‘blocks’ of three and a half weeks.

This model gives rise to an intense immersion with subject matter, impacting detail design of instructional space and influencing both the general layout of the campus plan and the detailed design of

Each building contains a distinctive interior and exterior gathering place that promote a sense of community. 

Like an intimate village, the inward and outward focused buildings feel comfortable and protected within its provocative mountain environment.

Walkways, landscaped open spaces, and large terraces link buildings with the adjacent Academic Building, Student Services Building, and multi-use Recreation Centre.

Academic Building

The Academic Building is set into the hillside allowing the natural landscape of the mountain to flow through the building.

The building surrounds a circular exterior courtyard that slopes to follow the site contours and is open on the diagonal at the top and bottom.

Pedestrians are able to walk through the centre of this building without having to go inside.

The Team

Pedestrian circulation

The interior and exterior spatial strategies are intended to combine a sense of the sublime with a sense of warmth.

Unbeatable study breaks

The Academic Building contrasts the landscape with a dramatic horizontal expression – a prow to view the sublime mountains, helping create that warmth and draw students in.

Interior and exterior circulation paths allow multiple ways of experiencing the campus, depending on weather and mood. Students can enjoy the contrast between panorama and intimate enclosure.

A warm library

Using wood was a specific and intentional design choice to bring the natural mountainside environment into the building. Wood acoustic panels are an integral and complementary part of the design.

Glulam posts and beams

Local Douglas fir used for the beams in the Dining Hall added beautiful colour, texture, and warmth to the space.

Locally harvested, renewable and close to hand, the fir was a very sustainable choice in the context of the project.

Bowing to nature

Geothermal energy is the main energy source and is distributed through a radiant slab system.

Siting was sensitive to the existing conditions of the landscape to minimize rock blasting while retaining the maximum number of trees.

Moreover, the design of interior and exterior spaces was governed by solar orientation.


2008 Silver Award of ExcellenceVancouver Regional Construction Association