A lecture held at RRU Dogwood Auditorium from the perspective of the presenter.

Royal Roads University Dogwood Auditorium


Colwood, BC

The new Dogwood Auditorium at Royal Roads University (RRU) gives a dilapidated former swimming pool a new lease on life as a flexible gathering space for celebrations, assemblies, and day to day teaching.

The new auditorium sits on the same National Historic Site as hcma’s  Sherman Jen Building, another adaptive reuse project, on the Dunsmuir Estate. Initially built in 1959 for cadet training by the Royal Roads Military College, demand for the swimming pool dropped when the University took over the site and it was decommissioned in the early 2000’s.

Old dogwood, new tricks

While most buildings on RRU’s Colwood campus are of English Edwardian architecture, this one, which sat alone in the woods, stood out for its international architectural style, adding a unique look to the campus. Inside, a six-lane lap pool with spectator seating took up the main room, with an adjoining squash court and changing facilities later that were added by the University. 

Conscious of climate change and their commitments to reduce embodied carbon—and the need to protect the building's heritage—RRU set out to breathe new life into the space, without having to tear it down. With a lack of space for hosting graduations, conferences, and convocation ceremonies, hcma delivered a flexible auditorium that would take the building from its current state of 10% usable space to over 80%. 


Areas of impact

Outside wall of the RRU Dogwood Auditorium
A flexible gathering space

The new fully accessible auditorium—with retractable seating for 500 people and a skyfold partition to split the room in two—offers a flexible space that can be used for large gatherings one minute and general teaching the next. 

Large windows flood the expanded welcome space with natural light, while polished concrete floors and Douglas Fir paneling provide a calmness throughout the building.

Just off the lobby, hcma converted the former squash courts into a multipurpose room, with high ceilings and glass windows offering stunning views to the forest backdrop. On the second level, a gallery space houses an AV room, with a small meeting and break out space. 

Guided by the community

RRU sits on the traditional lands of the Xwsepsum (Esquimalt) and Lekwungen (Songhees) ancestors and families. In its commitment to implementing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission—and honouring the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples—the university works closely with Heron People Circle advisors.

Through this consultation, the name ‘Dogwood’ was chosen for the new building, while the front entrance features an art piece by Kwakwak’awakw artist Carey Newman, titled ‘All My Relations’, symbolizing relations between the land, air, water and spirit worlds, inspired by conversations with Asma-na-hi Antoine, RRU's director of Indigenous engagement.

As well as working with local Indigenous communities during the project, the project team consulted with people of all levels at the university, Westshore residents, the Department of National Defense, and the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training.

The benefits of adaptive reuse

Adaptive reuse can offer many benefits when compared with building new. From a climate perspective, it limits the growth of new buildings on campus, reduces the need for demolition and landfill, protects the site’s trees, and reuses existing materials.

From a functional perspective, the university has retained the heritage of its existing building stock, doubled the capacity of event space on campus—and created an opportunity to rent the space out for public events.

Adaptive reuse has also allowed for innovative environmental sustainability strategies in the new building, with a geo-exchange energy system helping the university meet its targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions—while reducing its reliance on traditional heating sources.

To find out more about Dogwood Auditorium: https://youtu.be/U3o_WKHAstw

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