York University School of Continuing Studies
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.
Our team’s winning submission proposes 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.
The building twists dramatically as it rises, creating a landmark at the campus’s southeast entrance that also optimizes sun exposure throughout the day. Reflective brushed aluminum panels, windows, and integrated photovoltaic panels on the building’s exterior form a triangular diagrid that also twists with the curvature of the building, making it a highly recognizable architectural fixture on campus.
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.
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.
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.