Situated at a busy intersection connecting a major commercial thoroughfare and an academic campus, the new Student Learning Centre is a transformational element in the development of the city of Toronto and Ryerson University. The project houses a progressive program that expands the University’s existing library and focuses on collaborative space and dynamic learning environments. In addition, it must promote a strong urban quality that is generous to those using the business district along Yonge Street, one of Canada’s best-known shopping and commercial avenues. The design begins with the creation of a south facing, raised platform that opens the street corner to allow for a broad range of pedestrian activity, from larger gatherings to smaller individual seating areas. It is neither a plaza nor a porch; it is a combination of these things. A series of steps and ramps leads toward the entrance below a tilted ceiling that directs sunlight down to the public spaces and entry. Additionally, along the commercial street, a new retail accommodation is created that will allow for greater access to shops while also not overwhelming the public and academic components of the design.
Once inside the lobby, a large atrium space provides further informal seating areas and a late night study zone together with a café. Stairs lead to the first levels of the learning zones and digital media activities. A bridge then leads across an alleyway and connects to an existing and historical library building. Above this are several levels of unique learning areas that accommodate differing types of student and faculty needs. Each level is different in plan and section and has differing aspects of technology to interact with. One floor, known as The Beach, is an open and informal study area that spans from wall to wall across several small terraces linked by ramps and gentle steps. Furniture on this floor is informal and easily rearranged by the user. At the top of the building a sky terrace that is created with broad overlooks and access to natural light. The facades of the building are composed primarily of a fritted glass skin with a varying pattern that controls ultraviolet light and also dapples the sunlight to create a friendly atmosphere inside the reading and working areas. Larger panels at the entry area will have a ceramic-like skin that serves to mirror light to the street corner.
In general the design is focused upon developing natural conditions for groups to interact without prescribing the type or level of interaction to be available. A form of disruptive learning is considered and this has its historical roots in the design of the Greek stoa found historically in the classical world. The spaces are lively yet also offering controlled and introspective use. The nature of libraries and learning will once again become transformative rather than prescriptive.
Location: Toronto, Canada
Client: Ryerson University
Gross Floor Area: 14,200 m2
Design Architect, Landscape Architect, and Interiors: Snøhetta
Executve Architect: Zeidler Partnership Architects
Structural: Halcrow Yolles
Mechanical: Crossey Engineering
Civil: RV Anderson Ltd.
Lighting: Consullux Lighting Consultants, Crossey Engineering
Audio Visual: Novita
Signage and Wayfinding: Entro
Acoustic: Aercoustics Engineering
Cost Estimator: Marshall & Murray
Code: LRI Engineering
Hardware: Upper Canada Hardware
LEED: CEL Gruen
Exterior Envelope, Curtain Wall, Feature Metal Panel Ceiling / Soffit: Flynn
Concrete Formwork: Alliance Formwork
Mechanical and Plumbing: VR Mechanical
Electrical and Telecom: Urban Electric
Structural Steel: Benson Steel Fabricators
Green: LiveRoof Ontario
Photography: 1-14 © Lorne Bridgman, 15-19 © Snøhetta