Established in 2015, York University’s School of Continuing Studies was created through a merger of an English language institute with the department of continuing education. Less than a decade later, enrolment has expanded more than tenfold, reflecting the demand for accelerated programs specifically aimed at preparing graduates for Canada’s labour market. Now the largest institute of its kind in the country, the school has unveiled a new home that translates its nimble, collaborative ethos into a striking architectural form.
Designed by the Toronto studio of international practice Perkins&Will, the 11,150-square-metre complex combines a range of previously disparate programs — which were scattered across the York campus — into a single facility. Emphasizing flexible, collaborative learning spaces and amenities that support a diverse student body, the five-storey building also forms a southern gateway to the York campus. The prominence of the site inspired an open, public-facing identity, framed by a shared outdoor space.
“The building’s unique twisted form begins with a desire to create engaging public spaces, both within the building and at the scale of the campus,” says Andrew Frontini, Lead Designer and Design Director with Perkins&Will. “We responded to the neighbouring buildings, road networks and pedestrian desire lines by nudging the building over to create a gateway plaza to the west and a discrete drop off zone to the east. With this, the twist was born.”
Clad in brushed aluminum panels and accented by triangular glazing — which subtly emphasizes the twisting form — the building is distinguished by an efficient envelope that minimizes solar heat gain while welcoming ample light and panoramic views. Inside, more sociable and collaborative environments are clustered close to the public-facing exterior.
The facility’s modular learning spaces are all designed to be adapted to changing needs, while the student amenities — which include a lactation room and prayer space — respond to the needs of adult learners, and are attuned to Toronto’s exceptionally diverse student body.
The kinetic design also serves a symbolic purpose. Like the learning taking place inside, the building is always in motion, reflecting the School of Continuing Studies’ continuously evolving programs. For York University, it’s a statement of intent — and a social icon.
“Each of the five floors rotates to lean out and shelter the public realm as well as engage people at the scale of the campus with a bold sculptural presence,” says Frontini. “Inside, the twist creates light-filled spaces to engage outside of the classrooms. It’s a bold form, but one that is born out of a desire to build culture and community.”
Lead image by Doublespace.
Perkins&Will designs a complex that channels the continuously evolving nature of higher education.