Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Ryerson University Student Learning Centre in Toronto, Canada by Snøhetta
April 20th, 2016 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: The American Institute of Architects (AIA)
Toronto’s Ryerson University is widely known for its engineering and business programs, but as an urban commuter campus it was missing sorely needed space for students to remain on campus to study or relax between classes. The school also struggled with its identity within the city as the majority of its academic spaces are housed in the existing urban fabric or are set back from the city’s major streets. The new Student Learning Center solves both of those issues by providing critically needed space for students, bridging the gap between the Ryerson Library and Archives, and weaving the school into the vibrant cityscape that surrounds it.
The team drew its inspiration from historical Greek gathering spaces, tapping into the ancient culture’s inherently social ideologies for learning. The project gives students eight unique floors on which they can study, meet, and share ideas and the design fosters natural conditions to promote socialization while also offering spaces for introspection. The project encourages students to claim the center as their own, and since it opened in March 2015 it has become a campus hub that is filled with activity from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily. Despite the student body’s embrace of the project, use of the existing library has not decreased further demonstrating the center’s need.
From the street, a large iridescent canopy that covers a raised platform serves as a new campus gateway. Hand-folded metal panels stretch from the façade into the lobby, an atrium that holds seating, a café, and the school’s welcome desk to greet visitors and potential students. Every floor features themes inspired by nature, presenting students with an array of spaces and learning experiences. For instance, the sixth floor, known as “The Beach,” is an open and informal study area that cascades downward across a series of ramps and terraces, encouraging students to take a seat on the floor or rearrange any of the casual furniture. “The Sky,” the center’s top floor, features an up-lifting ceiling that provides ample views and natural light, while “The Garden” and “The Forest” host student services, quiet areas, and classrooms.
A hallmark of the project’s success was an overtly casual and relaxed feeling, and that is echoed in the presentation of the building’s primary systems, which are largely left exposed. The collection of ductwork, lighting, and acoustic elements gives the space a loose and rugged feel, akin to an artist’s loft or studio, while providing regulated comfort. Playing off of this rugged expression is the ceramic frit pattern that improves the building’s shading coefficient and functions much like cloud cover in the way it provides interior spaces with different qualities of light.