In the wake of an architectural contest, Dialog–along with EllisDon and Smoke Architecture–has received a commission to design the Centennial College A Block Expansion Building. Set for completion in 2023, this project is being presented as Canada’s first zero-carbon, mass timber higher education structure.

The Centennial College A Block Expansion Building comes complete with a budget of CAD 105 million (roughly US$80 million) and will be constructed with the use of sustainable wood, though it is not yet clear as to whether its structure will consist of only timber, such as Norway’s Mjøstårnet, or will include a core of concrete, like Brock Commons.

With its abundant glazing and ivory-hued aluminum detailing, the building will resemble the beautiful Calgary Central Library, co-designed by Dialog with Snøhetta. Yet its design is highly inspired by Indigenous Canadian culture and will include new academic spaces with flexible classrooms in which students will learn both Western and Indigenous subjects.

The design of the Centennial College A Block Expansion Building finds its origins and influences in indigenous Canadian culture.

Dialog and Smoke, according to a Dialog representative, drew creative inspiration from the Mi’kmaq concept of ‘Two-Eyed Seeing’, which itself combines influences from Indigenous and Western cultures, and from the Anishinabek ‘Seven Fires’ prophecy—one which dictates that we must pick up things left by the trail. An Indigenous Commons provides the core of the building, with the structure surrounding this circular room opening into a majestic central courtyard.

Using the land as their guide, the design team aligned the structure to the cardinal directions. The main point of entry stands at the east, the conventional location for the entrance in Indigenous structures. A staircase ascends to the west, a component of the wisdom hall, a tri-level high active multi-story convergence space that serves pupils, staff members, and visitors that connects people to Indigenous legends. The narrative of the design is a tale of “seed, growth, culmination, and balance”.

The Centennial College A Block Expansion Building even will feature a staircase that doubles as a sitting area.

The Centennial College A Block Expansion Building also will feature a partial green roof. The renders appear via the design to boast solar panels on the roof; the design as a whole is slated to receive LEED Gold—a green building standard.