York University is one of the largest schools in the world. Despite that, its structure was scattered and did not have proper access from one space to another. Thus came an international design competition to showcase their culture and identity. In this competition, Perkins and Will emerged victoriously. Their design put forward an advanced sustainable design and an epochal architecture that will work as a campus gateway.
With an area of 97,000 square feet, the project began. After a groundbreaking ceremony held virtually due to COVID 19, the developers began the construction in March 2020. The area was originally an open ground and surface parking. Once the construction made progress, it attracted lots of heads towards it and became a landmark for that area. When the building’s steel frame was about to be completed, the twisted structure became visible. There are six levels in total, in which only the ground floor is completely glazed. The lower floor consists of classrooms, mechanical rooms, and a cafeteria, while the next four floors contain classrooms. The upper floor is split between meeting space, office, staff lounge and workspace for instructors.
Like an island, the building is covered with road access on all four sides. The building is located along the north of Pond Road and between Ian MacDonald Boulevard and James Gillies Street. The fourth side is the road that connects the Bennett building and this building. Ian MacDonald Boulevard road leads to the subway station, and Pond Road leads to Keele Street. Since the building is at the intersection, this has become a major pedestrian hub. Coming to transportation, Pond Road acts as the major bus arterial. Perkins and Will highlight that the accommodations are on the land opposite the building (i.e., lands on the south), where a lot of students stay in privately developed residences.
The twisted structure is the main reason for the uniqueness of this building. The drop off point and the pick-up area are sheltered due to the rotation of the ground floor, which also establishes a space for the arrival plaza at the main entry. The twisted structure provides a highly flexible learning environment and also a sequence of towering- bright spaces reflecting the school’s culture and identity. Perkins and Will designed this bold twisting structure to define the south edge of the campus and to create a new pedestrian plaza.
Landscape and Lighting
The uniform landscape that combines the hardscape, softscape, lighting and seating gives out a warm welcome not only to the School of Continuing Studies but also to the entire campus. Towards Pond Road, The plaza-like space defines the pedestrian path along Pond Road. From there, the sunken garden can be seen, which brings natural lighting into the classroom and lounge space. Since this is the lower level, the garden acts as the spatial connectivity for these spaces.
Due to the triangle design of the facade, the daylight inside the building is amplified. This also gives the feel of transparency for the person inside the building to connect with the outer environment. The spaces are well interconnected between the floors, which encourages the students to interact with each other. This property allows the building to function as a whole during the event or celebration in school. Perkins and Will have been very particular about the natural lighting and about the spatial connection that made the entire building alive.
To win a LEED Gold certificate, the design aspects include the goal of reducing embodied carbon and improvising the health of students and other users. The design shows the potential for Net-Zero Energy and Net-Zero Carbon. The use of passive house standards, heat recovery ventilation and integrated photovoltaics helps in generating the electricity on site. These integrated photovoltaic panels are said to be placed in the facades. To reduce the energy load further, a combination of passive house design strategies with highly effective HVAC and Energy systems is used. To achieve the Net-Zero Energy target in this project, they reduced the extent of renewable energy production.
Rhonda Lenton, York University President and Vice-Chancellor, proudly said, “This new building will enable us to create even more lifelong learning opportunities, build connections with local and international communities, and help students of all ages and backgrounds to achieve their fullest potential.”
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