The C.K. Choi Building

Located on the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver campus, the C. K. Choi Building is home to the Institute for Asian Research, the Institute for European Studies and the Pacific Affairs journal. Designed by Matsuzaki Wright Architects, the building and adjoining plaza are replete with architectural symbols of Asian culture and the IAR’s work inside.

The C. K. Choi Building was inaugurated in 1996 and immediately recognized as a benchmark in sustainable design, earning the Building Owners and Managers Association of BC’s EARTH Award in 1996 and the Lieutenant Governor Innovation Award of Excellence in 1998.

A Constructive Idea

Newspaper clipping from The Vancouver Courier

by Gudrun Will
Reprinted with permission from the writer. Vancouver Courier, pp. 1,4-5. Vol. 87, No.48, 16 June 1996

A striking building stands behind a row of young gingko trees in the northwest corner of the University of B.C. campus. Five silver, arced roofs rise along its length, giving the impression of a ship's sails billowing towards the North Shore mountains. The unusual, purplish colour of the brick cladding contrasts with the 100-foot coniferous forest looming behind.

This is the C.K. Choi building, a structure thoroughly planned to reduce ill effects on its surroundings, one of the most advanced in use in B.C. Completed early this year, it functions as a normal component of the campus, containing the Institute of Asian Research.

Read more

Seeing With New Eyes

Matsuzaki Wright Architects
pp 11-14, Design for a New Millennium,
ed. E.Laquian (1995) . Institute of Asian Research, Vancouver.

At the onset of the 21st century, the world faces global warming from greenhouse gas emissions, a thinning ozone layer, depletion of natural resources, an inadequate supply of fresh water and reduced capacity for food production. All of these issues are exacerbated by a steadily increasing population. "Our human values and institutions have set mankind on a collision course with the laws of nature" (Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions Ehrlich, Ehrlich, Holdren). In 1993 when the University of British Columbia commissioned Matsuzaki Wright Architects for the design of the C. K. Choi Building, a mandate was set to attain a new benchmark in sustainable design.

Read more

Green Buildings: In Transit to a Sustainable World

C. K. Choi Building interior

By Raymond J. Cole
Reprinted with permission from Canadian Architect, July 1996, Volume 41, No. 7, pp. 12-13.

What would a sustainable would be like?  Imagine a reduced and stabilized population, no more culture of consumerism, an economic framework that fully incorporates environmental impacts, significantly reduced use of resources, and the concept of waste eliminated.  We are far from existing in such a world now, but we are in the early stages of a period of reappraisal and change which  will extend well into the next millennium.  Designing in this transitional period as society realigns itself to meet the dictates of sustainability is quite different from designing in an era in which an environmental ethic has fully matured.

Read more

Swooping for Air

by Bronwen Ledger
Article reprinted with the permission of Canadian Architect. The article appeared in the July 1996 issue of the magazine.

From the first planning meetings in 1993, the C.K. Choi Institute of Asian Research on the West Mall at UBC was designed to be a "benchmark in sustainable design."

As in any truly green building project, collaboration between all the consultants from the beginning was vital, since the work of each discipline affects another. Design charettes were held with the university administration, users and all the consultants making a contribution, and gradually the building began to take shape as a long, 30,000 s.f. structure, dominated by a series of swooping metal roofs and with a many-windowed brick facade.

Read more

Script for an Asian Landscape

Richard E. Prince
Department of Fine Arts, UBC
p. 18. Design for a New Millenium, ed. E. Laquian (1996). Institute of Asian Research, Vancouver.

Script for an Asian Landscape is a sculpture comprised of six separate but interrelated units which can be found outside the west entrance of the C.K. Choi Building as well as in five locations in the central entrance and stairwell of the building, and in the dome of the reading room.

It must be considered that Asia is not a unified entity and contains cultures as widely different as does any vast continent. Attempting to find one symbolic element to represent those cultures is an impossible task. This sculpture instead derives its imagery from that which is shared by all in Asia -- the land. Land remains throughout time and history. Its surface holds memory, the imprint of human habitations that have come and gone. As a metaphor, it represents our deepest yearnings for belonging to the continuum of life. Its beauty can provoke a profound response that carries us beyond our own lives into realms without borders and cultures, uniting us through a universality of experience. Hence, the sculpture takes the form of a journey in a landscape where elements are placed in six locations in the main circulation axis of the building and are encountered in different sequences as one walks into and through the building.

Read more

Stone Garden Blooms with Virtue

C. K. Choi Building stone garden

Eleanor Laquian
Institute of Asian Research
pp. 22-23 Design for a New Millenium, ed. E. Laquian (1996).
Institute of Asian Research, Vancouver.

In this age of accommodation, very few things are carved in stone. Yet in the Asian plaza at the southeast corner of the C. K. Choi Building there are at least five. These are Chinese characters engraved on huge stones shipped all the way from Taishan (Mt. Tai) in Shandong Province (China) where Confucius was born. They form the centerpiece of the Stone Garden. Each character represents a virtue extolled in the Confucian Analects, with supporting quotations from a variety of ancient sources, here summarized.

Read more


1996 B.C. Earth Award, Building Owners and Managers Association
1998 Architectural Institute of BC Innovation Award of Excellence (Matsuzaki Wright Architects)


Composting Toilets (CityFarmer)

UBC Sustainability Office - for a green building tour of the C.K. Choi Building for the Institute of Asian Research, please click on UBC Green Building Tour.

Campus sustainability map in PDF

October 7-11, 1996

  • ribbon

    President David Strangway, Chancellor William Sauder, Mr. C.K. Choi and sons Peter and David.

  • secret

    Pierre Fallavier, Anthony Yeung, Melissa Wu, Teti Argo, Kirsten Lovelock, Dulce Amba, Marietta Lao, Lisa Kwan, and Karen Jew.

  • signage

    CKR Director Yunkshik Chang, President Strangway and Research Chair Kjung-Ae Park receive CKR plaque from Korea Foundation Vice-president Park Jeong-Yeop (3rd from left).

  • noh

    Master Carver Ran Nomura of the Noh Mask Goodwill Group that presented 20 Noh masks to the Institute, explains to Mr. Matsumoto and Mrs. Keizo Nagatani the fine features of a young woman's mask.

  • confdinner

    Former Lt. Governor David Lam, IAR Director Terry McGee, Mrs. Emil Salim, Prof. Dr. Emil Salim, President Strangway, Keynote Speaker Prof. Tu Wiming.

  • plaque

    Asst. Secretary of State for Asia and Pacific Affairs Raymond Chan, Education Minister Moe Sihota, Chancellor Sauder, Mayor Philip Owen, and UBC Board of Governors Chair Shirley Chan.

Read the translated C.K. Choi Building Features (PDF) (Available: English, 한국어, Tagalog, 繁體字, 简化字, 日本語)

Download UBC’s Sustainability Map
Take UBC’s Green Building Tour