• A night view of the shelter, looking westward. (Photo: Krista Jahnke Photography)

Incorporating design inspired by natural surroundings into a modern structure can be a challenge for architects hoping to strike a balance between old and new.

But the new bus shelter at the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver campus did just that.

View of the shelter, looking westward. (Photo: Krista Jahnke Photography)

Designed by Public: Architecture + Communication, the shelter combines a tree-like structure with a modern edge. A canopy of geometrical branches for the students' transit centre is meant to reflect the surroundings of the campus and the Katsura trees that line the avenue.

John Wall, principal architect at Public: Architecture + Communication, says the design uses the “three pillars of sustainability,” making use of local materials, natural light and weather protection to create a sound structure.

To achieve this look, a mathematical approach was taken. Using geometry and pentagons to create an “almost random branch-like structure,” Wall and his team aimed to have natural light filter in through the canopy both during the day and at night when the streetlights come on.

Visibility and safety were also key design aspects. A concern on all university campuses, safety was vital to the architectural firm and UBC. “There’s no hidden corners — it’s out in the public realm,” Wall says.

Public: Architecture + Communication extended the boulevard of trees using steel columns to support the wood canopy topped with glass. “It’s the gateway: the first thing you see when you arrive and the last thing you see when you leave,” Wall says.

“It should be expressive of UBC as an institution, which values sustainability and innovation.”