York University School of Continuing Studies

Toronto, Ontario

York University’s existing School of Continuing Studies was scattered throughout campus in a series of temporary accommodations. Despite being one of the largest schools of its kind in Canada, the faculty was without a home—a critical shortcoming for the faculty’s students, many of whom commute to the campus on evenings and weekends. In response, the University launched an international design competition, expressing the need for a dedicated structure to reflect the school’s identity and culture, define a campus gateway, and meet ambitious sustainability targets.

Southwest Entry Plaza

Public Realm

The rotation of the ground floor creates space for a generous arrival plaza at the main entry as well as sheltered drop off and pick up area. A set of terraced gardens at the building perimeter reveal large expanses of glazing that bring natural light deep in to the lower level classrooms. Ground floor spaces are open and dedicated to student engagement and events animating the streets and pedestrian realm.

Physical Model of Structural Frame
— What it is

Our team’s winning submission is a bold twisting form that defines the south edge of the campus and shapes a new pedestrian plaza.

Internally, the building provides a suite of highly flexible learning environments as well as a series of lofty, bright spaces that support the school’s culture and identity.

Shaping a Campus Gateway

With the introduction of the York University subway station at the centre of campus, the project site at the intersection of The Pond Road and Ian McDonald Boulevard has become a major pedestrian hub. The Pond Road is a major bus arterial, and the lands to the south accommodate thousands of students in privately developed residences.

The design creates an enhanced public realm, linking the School of Continuing Studies site to Seneca College’s existing [email protected] building. Through a unified landscape treatment that integrates hardscape, softscape, lighting, and seating a sense of place is created announcing not only the entrance to the School of Continuing Studies but to the campus as a whole.

To the south, the plaza treatment narrows to define a pedestrian route along The Pond Road with views into a terraced sunken garden that brings light and spatial connectivity to the classrooms and lounge space in the lower level of the building.

“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.”

—Rhonda Lenton, York University President and Vice Chancellor

Upper Level Lounge

Sense of Place

Abundant daylight, transparency, and interconnected spaces between floors encourage students to interact and allow the building to function as a home for events and celebrations that support the school’s evolving culture and community.


With the intent to achieve LEED Gold certification and goals of reducing embodied carbon and improving occupant health, the design explores the potential for Net-Zero Energy and Net-Zero Carbon. Strategies include a building envelope that is designed using Passive House standards, heat recovery ventilation and integrated photovoltaics to generate electricity on site. The use of Passive House design strategies combined with highly efficient HVAC and Energy systems will reduce the energy loads greatly, reducing the extent of the renewable energy production needed to aid the project in achieving the Net-Zero Energy target.

Program and Identity

The School of Continuing Studies will feature interconnected lounge spaces that support communities of learning. The building accommodates classrooms, social and collaboration spaces as well as offices for students, faculty and staff in York’s Continuing Professional Education programs and the York English Language Institute. The cultural and community building aspects of this project bring the two schools together into a single home that promotes a sense of pride and identity for the faculty’s students and staff.

Project Team

Safdar Abidi
Andrew Frontini
Zeina Elali