The Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at the University of B.C. is one of the province’s most iconic structures, a West Coast modern building with “Haida and Japanese esthetics” that “brings the outdoors inside.”
The focal point of Arthur Erickson’s design is the Great Hall, a grand open space that soars five storeys high. The walls are made of glass, allowing for natural light that makes the room feel like it’s part of the natural landscape.
The structure is held up by a series of cement pillars that cascade down the contours of the site, like the wood beams in an ancient native big house. Inside is a dazzling collection of totem poles from up the coast.
But that height and openness could be a big problem in an earthquake. So the Great Hall is being rebuilt with a “base isolation system,” the latest in seismic technology.
“You put the hall itself on basically rubber base isolators, and they move in a slightly different way from the rest of the building,” explains Nick Milkovich, a longtime associate of Erickson who is the architect for the project. “So this room has to be separated from the rest of the building with movement plates, but you won’t be able to see them. It takes the harsh movement of the earthquake and makes it a much more gentle movement, which is better for the exhibitory and everything inside.