By Michael Duncan
Walk up the tiled staircase, past the old wooden banisters and hidden laboratories to the top floor of Ryerson’s Monetary Times Building and you’ll find a red 1991 Pontiac Firefly wired to a projector in the Road Safety Research Lab.
Go down to the basement and you may run into a modern-day Victor Frankenstein, rumoured to haunt the building, fusing together lost student’s limbs for his ugly behemoth.
But the Monetary Times Building, home to the civil engineering department at the corner of Church and Gerrard streets, attracts barely a glance from students shuffling by on their way to class. If asked, most would say they have never even heard of the seemingly drab building.
“I’m a tour guide for Ryerson and this building isn’t even on the tour route. The tour guides don’t even know what this building is,” said Paul Kwiczala, a third-year civil engineering student and member of the civil engineering student’s society. The society has claimed an office on the ground floor of the Monetary Times Building.
And as Ryerson continues its focus on expansion, the Monetary Times Building is likely to remain doomed to oblivion. Its designation as a heritage site prevents the university from adding more floors to the four-storey building. As the program attracts more graduate students, civil engineering labs and lectures are moved to the new engineering building.
“We are quickly outgrowing this space,” said Kim Kritzer, an administrative assistant in the building. “Ryerson is becoming more popular and growing really fast and we are receiving a lot more applications.”
Built in 1931 for the Monetary Times Printing Company, it was left largely untouched until the 1980s when it underwent renovations. In its glory days the building was the hub of Ryerson’s civil engineering program.
The halls were filled with undergraduates and a small room with a couple dozen computers made a big enough computer lab to serve the needs of all the students in the program.
Now the building mainly houses offices for the department’s professors and administrative staff. Graduate students replaced the undergraduates in the hallways and most of the labs with heavy complex equipment have been moved or built in the new engineering building.
But the building still holds a few gems. Along with professor Said Easa’s Road Safety Research Lab there is an environmental testing space and a structural lab that tests the strength of materials.
“So much of what goes on in here is testing,” said Robin Luong, a lab technician at the building.
The driving simulation lab on the top floor is used to gage driver’s reactions based on different driving environments.
In one of the building’s other labs, a rain simulator is used to test water absorption in different mixtures of soil. But the lab surrounding that contraption is a construction zone as the department works on building a flume to be filled with water that will span almost the entire length of the building.
And the civil engineers still have their fun in the old building. The Monetary Times has hosted drunken, lubed-up twister games in its hallways as initiation for frosh partiers. First-year students have even ridden toboggans in the stairwells. But only when department staff aren’t around to see.