By Adrian Morrow
It’s a cross between a Parisian streetscape and a science-fiction vision of the future.
The functional post-war architecture of Kerr Hall and the Podium is replaced by soaring high-rises with glassed-in hallways and lounges; café patios line Gould Street’s widened sidewalks; students attend lectures in loft-like classrooms and socialize in atriums in the new buildings.
This is the draft Master Plan unveiled last week. The plan sets goals for future development, including densifying the campus, making it pedestrian-friendly and paying attention to the aesthetics of its design.
A sweeping 20-year blueprint for how Ryerson will expand, the Master Plan is the first step towards radically remaking the campus. “Year after year, decade after decade, it will ensure that when the campus is being built, there is a connecting logic to it,” President Sheldon Levy said. Levy initiated the Master Plan in 2006, hiring Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects (KPMB) to direct the project.
They’ve spent the last year consulting with students, staff and faculty to create the draft. While the plan itself is mainly focused on providing general guidelines, KPMB created mock-ups to show how the campus could one day look.
“The lands that Ryerson has are under-utilized,” said architect Marianne McKenna at a town hall meeting this week, where she showed renderings of a 10-storey building where Sam the Record Man now stands. “The vertical campus has become a necessity.”
This same principle is apparent in their work with Concordia University, who hired KPMB to design two high-rise buildings for their downtown Montréal campus. The $200-million project is part of the school’s own Master Plan.
While Concordia’s expansion is on-time and on-budget, another Ryerson-sized school in Montreal hasn’t fared so well. L’Université du Quebec à Montréal (UQAM) nearly went bankrupt last year after a $600-million expansion plan went sour, leaving a hefty debt and halting construction on a new building.
The school is still negotiating with developers to pull out of the project.
Ryerson, however, will be growing in small chunks. The first will be an expansion of the library, which would see several floors added to the top of the former Sam the Record Man and attached to the current library building, with shops on the ground floor.
Ryerson hopes to start looking for an architect this year. “It will probably take us a few months, because you want to have your program pretty well nailed down before you hire an architect,” said Linda Grayson, the school’s VP Finance and Administration, who handles most of the school’s business dealings.
The school is also in talks with the province, asking for a $40-million grant that would go a long way towards paying the estimated $80-million tab for the Sam’s redevelopment.
“I think something pretty exciting is going to emerge from those discussions,” Premier Dalton McGuinty said. “We’re very supportive of Ryerson.”
With applications to Ryerson up 20 per cent last year and more students than ever vying to get into Ontario’s universities and colleges, the province will have to invest the money to improve education and add spaces.
“This development at Ryerson is welcome, it’s needed and we’ll need it at a number of other places,” said Paul Genest, president of the Council of Ontario Universities. Meanwhile, Levy is ready to one of Ryerson’s, and his, largest projects.
Nearly a decade ago, when he was president of Sheridan College, Levy oversaw the creation of a new campus whose main building bears his name. tackle
“There’s a principle that Sheridan taught me … that success is a function of the energy a building gets by the interaction of people,” he said.
“It needs places where people can bump into each other and say ‘let’s have a coffee’; that feeling of life.”