Located in the heart of the city’s downtown, the University of Toronto’s St. George campus is one of the only major Canadian campuses without a large student-centred community facility; this project will provide that space through the renovation of 230 College Street into the new Student Commons, achieving a much needed functional integration of the student spaces and services currently dispersed over the campus.
Originally built for the Royal College of Dental Surgeons in 1909 and most recently occupied by the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape & Design, the building is on a prominent corner of the campus. Its redesign as the new Student Commons respects the historic brick-and-limestone exterior of the building while simultaneously transforming the building into a welcoming, accessible and outward-looking hub of student activity. When complete, it will deliver programming, community space and essential services for students – all governed, managed and operated by students.
Collaborating with the Student Union enabled the design team to propose both unique and functional ways to achieve a space that meets their present needs and can adapt for future uses. Further research by the design team focused on the manner in which students ideally operate at the university: how materiality, colour and daylight can increase productivity and enjoyment while facilitating navigation, wayfinding and the creation of community.
With the intention of this building functioning as a home for all, a strong focus on cultural, physical and social inclusivity is a prime design driver. Key goals include creating a welcoming and universally accessible space, increasing connectivity throughout the building, and creating flexible and diverse program space that can be enjoyed by different student groups in different ways. A reorientation of the building on an east-west axis with the main entrance on grade reinforces the notion of universal access, as does the inclusion of flexible multipurpose rooms and a universally accessible support kitchen and computing facilities. Offices and meeting rooms are complemented by a variety of lounge and breakout spaces, food services, and storage spaces, all programmed for optimal adjacencies and to engender collaboration and community .
The project is currently in design, scheduled for completion of construction in October 2017.