How the creation of collaborative spaces prepares students for their future

How the creation of collaborative spaces prepares students for their future

Project: Ryerson University, Brookfield Institute, iBoost, and School of Performance

Interior Designer: Valerie Gow, ARIDO

Design Firm: Gow Hastings Architects

Adjacent to vibrant Yonge-Dundas Square, Ryerson’s newest annex at the Atrium on Bay accommodates two distinct needs in a shared space with views to their existing campus.

The Ryerson School of Performance, offering programs in acting, dance, and production, occupies one half of the suite, providing a consolidated space for faculty and administrative functions, while also serving as the audience relations, production zone, and a student touchdown area.

The other half is occupied by The Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (BIIE) and the Centre for Engineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CEIE), two visionary initiatives spearheaded by former Ryerson President Sheldon Levy. Spaces of collaboration and incubation are important for research-oriented and policy-focused institutions like Ryerson. This innovation hub provides a collaborative environment to support student entrepreneurs and inventors, connecting them with a vast network of technical, business, and investor resources, globally. It provides a physical framework for Ryerson’s new pedagogy of experiential zone learning, preparing students for the 21st-century workplace through tangible experience on real-world projects. The “iBoost Zone” is an acceleration platform for student technology entrepreneurs to solve real customer problems and create start-ups around that solution.

The overall design goal of the joint renovation project was the creation of collaborative, inviting, and open spaces with opportunities for active learning and informal interaction between staff, students, and industry. Inspired by the user groups’ synergistic way of working, the space was designed with openness, transparency, and flexibility to create dynamic and interactive spaces for collaboration.

The open concept touchdown environment with plug and play functionality of Brookfield and iBoost facilitates critical interactions between students and industry. At the heart is a social space, with an open kitchen and bar counter, informal seating, and games tables, providing a centralized area for the cross-pollination of ideas. Moveable, collapsible, and storable furniture solutions allow for reconfigurable arrangements for teamwork, individual research, and event hosting. Castors roll easily on the rubber floor for quick reconfigurations. A graduated pattern of blue magnetic glass marker board provides opportunities for spontaneous interaction.

Similarly, in the School of Performance, offices flank an open collaborative workspace and large meeting area where the buzz of activity occurs. Bright blue mail slots enliven the reception area. Both spaces share a similar design language of enhanced lighting, vibrant graphics, and exposed ceiling to maximize height and emulate an industrial working environment. Acoustic panels line the vertical soffits and sculpt the ceiling to provide directionality in the space. Perimeter windows provide views out to Yonge-Dundas Square and the Ryerson campus.

Materially, the School of Performance features wood to engender a warm ambiance and an enhanced intimacy that reflect the closeness of faculty colleagues and students, providing light and warmth as a counterpoint to the black boxes where performance students often spend their time. An articulated white oak soffit draws users and visitors into the space. Brookfield and iBoost, on the other hand, feature glass predominantly, lending a high-tech and start-up feel in line with the work of innovators.

Valerie Gow

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