George Brown College Waterfront Campus
Stantec Architecture / KPMB Architects
In 2012, George Brown College, an urban community college in Toronto, built a waterfront campus for its school of health sciences. Representing a 40 percent expansion of the overall campus, the new 450,000-square-foot, $140-million building responds to rising demand for health-care professionals, in particular those who are preparing for a collaborative practice. By uniting the schools of Dental Health, Heath and Wellness, Health Management, and Nursing and creating strategic social spaces shared by all student bodies, the facility refutes the silo mentality that had kept these related departments from intersecting. Students traveling diverse paths now meet each other easily, build connections, and, in effect, teach one another.
Previously the four programs occupied a building in downtown Toronto that lacked common areas. To realize the client's vision for learning, the design team—KPMB Architects in a joint venture with Stantec Architecture—first consulted research on the pedagogy. For example, a 2001 study by Thomas Allen of MIT's Sloan School of Management concluded that collaboration requires, above all, proximity. “It was so simple that we laughed,” recalls KPMB principal Bruce Kuwabara, “but it's absolutely true.” Analysis also showed that learning often happens outside the classroom: students share information in casual conversation.
Therefore, KPMB worked with Stantec to maximize student interaction: they designed a vertical structure whose interlocking spaces draw students nearer to one another. To foster informal exchange, the team also conceived dining zones as natural extensions of learning areas.
The dominant feature of this scheme is known as the “Learning Landscape”: two large expanses of stadium seating that are affixed to open staircases on the second and third floors. These open areas encourage carry-over discussions from formal lectures and meetings, as well as more ad hoc exchanges, against a background of Lake Ontario and the Toronto skyline. “We've devised all sorts of strategies to draw people out of their foxholes,” Kuwabara says.
In the new building's first year of operation, George Brown College exceeded its target for full-time health-science enrollment. Today it operates at capacity, with 3,500 students and 500 faculty. Enrollment revenues have risen by almost $1 million, or 5 percent, since the 2011'12 academic year. The building design has directly attracted more than $4 million for naming opportunities, with $3.2 million of that pledged as a single donation in 2014.
The influx of young people is energizing the locale, a former industrial precinct called Bayfront Shore whose revitalization figures into a larger master plan for the City of Toronto. To stoke Bayfront Shore's transformation as a vital mixed-use neighborhood, much of the new academic building doubles as public space. Lounge amenities and retail spaces are open to visitors, and they annually generate almost $800,000 in food sales and $1.3 million in bookstore revenue. The campus further engages the community through its WAVE (Wellness, Applied Research, and Visionary Education) clinics, in which students and faculty operate dental, hearing, fitness, active-living, and health-promotion clinics for residents. In 2013, the new building reported 17,400 patient visits, a 45 percent increase over its former building's clinics. The design team credits the client for supporting a scheme that attracts and empowers the student body and citizenry alike. “Architecturally speaking,” says Kuwabara, “this is the biggest statement on collaboration that we've ever seen by anybody.”
Stantec Architecture / KPMB Architects in Joint Venture
Stantec: 100-401 Wellington St. West, Toronto, ON M5V 1E7
KPMB: 3-322 King St. West, Toronto, ON M5V 1J2
Gross square footage: 449,000 square feet
Total project cost: Confidential
Completion Date: September 2012
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Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Lighting: Martin Conboy Lighting Design
Acoustical: Aercoustics Inc.
Metal Panels: MRM (miscellaneous non-structural metals)
Metal/glass curtain wall: Sota Glazing Inc.
Precast concrete: CBM
Wood: Allwood Industries Ltd.
Moisture barrier: Structural Roofing and Waterproofing Ltd.
Curtain wall: Sota Glazing Inc.
Other cladding unique to this project: Gage Ltd. (insulated metal siding)
Elastomeric: IKO Industries
Insulated-panel or plastic glazing: SunProject
Other: Camden (misc. glazing)
Metal doors: Upper Canada Specialty Hardware Ltd., Modern Railings & Metalcraft Ltd.
Wood doors: Upper Canada Specialty Hardware Ltd.
Sliding doors: Upper Canada Specialty Hardware Ltd.
Fire-control doors, security grilles: Total Door Systems
Upswinging doors, other: Amstel (overhead doors)
Pulls: Gallery Hardware
Security devices: Plan Group Inc. (card access/card readers IT)
Suspension grid: Armstrong, HunterDouglasContract
Demountable partitions: Vertical Solutions, Skyfold
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Allwood Carpentry Manufacturing
Paints and stains: Sherwin-Williams, PPG, Donalco (fireproofing and intumescent paint)
Wall coverings: Sound Solutions Architectural Products, Conwed Designscape
Paneling: Owens Corning
Plastic laminate: Abet Laminati
Solid surfacing: Corian
Special surfacing: 3 Form
Floor and wall tile: Olympia Tile, Daltile, Vitreous Glass Inc., Stone Tile
Resilient flooring: Armstrong, Jonsonite, Mondo
Fluid applied flooring: Douchem
Carpet: Kraus Inc.
Raised flooring: Camino Modular Systems Inc., Haworth, Inc.
Tables: Allwood Carpentry Manufacturing
Upholstery: Absecon Mills, Inc.
Downlights: Martin Conboy Lighting Design
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