McEwen School of Architecture, Laurentian University

Sudbury, Ontario

The first Canadian architecture school in more than 40 years, McEwen embraces its northern climate and culture, with adaptive re-use of historic structures, a new building with locally sourced, cross-laminated timber design, and a design that serves both the university and Sudbury’s tri-cultural community.


Located on Laurentian University’s downtown Sudbury campus, the McEwen School of Architecture wanted to provide a uniquely integrated and focused education for Anglophone, Francophone, and Indigenous students. The curriculum addresses resilient architecture and fabrication techniques for northern latitudes, with an emphasis on Indigenous culture, wood construction, local ecologies and resources, and design for minimizing the impacts of climate change. The design promotes universal welcoming and inclusion, and is the first school of architecture to include offices for Indigenous Elders, who play a central role in the school.

We conceived McEwan as a didactic instrument from which students could learn about the making of architecture, and particularly how it can address sustainability, climate, and culture. The resulting mini-campus unites four different building typologies around a climate-controlled central courtyard. We converted a former Canadian Pacific Railway ticketing and telegraph building into faculty offices, and a timber rail shed into the Fab Lab for teaching traditional and contemporary building methods. A new steel and concrete wing houses the “Crit Pit” and design studios, and a cross-laminated timber (CLT) building houses the auditorium and library. The CLT wing immerses students in a relatively new product that is having a tremendous impact on local construction. The courtyard, south facing and sheltered from prevailing winds, serves as an outdoor classroom and making space, with a ceremonial fire pit that enables students and the local community to participate in local First Nations traditions.

To optimize the building’s long-term sustainability and performance, we worked collaboratively with experts to develop ‘The LAL Sustainability Manifesto’ as an alternative to standard rating systems such as LEED. This framework harnesses a combination of passive and active systems to address the specific conditions of northern buildings. The parameters focus on conservation, passive survivability, and optimal flexibility to avoid future redundancies. South-facing elevations of both the primary studio space and the library wing embrace the sunlight while north facing walls have reduced openings. Digital screens allow students to evaluate the building’s energy performance, and a green roof creates space for future study and analysis. Meanwhile, the raised floor throughout the CLT library wing provides a modular infrastructure that can easily adapt to future service requirements.

When I teach students, I walk through the buildings and discuss the exposed structural elements, and the innovative connections and I point out the beautiful accumulation of student installations designed for the various spaces.

Tammy Gaber, Director, McEwen School of Architecture


The workshops and fabrication labs are second to none for an Architectural school for crafts, making and design thinking.

 Canadian Architectural Certification Board, 2021 Initial Accreditation Visiting Team Report


2018 Chicago Anthenaeum International Architecture Award
2018 Ontario Consulting Engineering Award
2017 Ontario Association of Architects Design Excellence Award
2017 WoodWorks Ontario Award: Building over $10 million


Arquine – (July 2019) School of Architecture McEwen
The Plan – (November 2018) LGA Architectural Partners – McEwen School of Architecture
Think Wood – (August 2018) Northern Reflections: Architecture school gives a nod to timber’s past and a wave to its future
ArchDaily – (June 2018) 15 Inspiring Architecture School Buildings from Around the World
The Sudbury Star – (March 2018) Sudbury architecture school’s design stands out
Esquisses – (September 2015) Retrouver le Nord
Canadian Architect – (November 2014) Bright Futures
The Globe and Mail – (October 2013) Inspired by nature to fuel a northern spirit