The winning design titled "Urban Gateway" was headed by fourth-year students from the School of Interior Design and the School of Architecture.

A gateway to Ryerson

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By Leah Hansen

A group of Ryerson students will be redesigning the Victoria Street Lane behind Lake Devo in the coming months after winning a redesign competition.

The competition focused on revitalizing areas of Ryerson’s campus that are currently not used. Eight projects were originally entered into the competition, hosted by the crowd-sourcing site Projexity. After a public vote, three projects were chosen as finalists.

The winning project was selected by a panel of four judges on Feb. 10. Titled Urban Gateway, the design was was headed by fourth-year students from the School of Interior Design and the School of Architecture.

The challenge was designing the site in a way that respected and celebrated the existing mural painted on the side of the Victoria building, said architecture student and team member Helen Xie. The team worked on creating a space that would make the lane way the centre of attention, while encouraging the relationship between the university and the community.

“Ryerson is really part of the city fabric and we were trying to identify what is Ryerson’s identity,” said Xie. “How do you tell when you’re actually in the campus as opposed to when you’re just walking in downtown Toronto?”

The team worked on addressing issues such as the safety of the lane way, portraying Ryerson’s identity, promoting bike use on campus and celebrating the existing bike mural.

“Our entire idea is around this concept of connecting the Ryerson campus to the public and creating a gateway to the campus,” said Xie. “We want to encourage more bicycle usage in that lane way and we also want to invite the community into the space and for them to appreciate the innovative side of Ryerson University.”

The team approached the project with research in mind, said interior design student and team member Amanda Scarlato. Only after consulting Ryerson’s Master Plan, as well as researching the city’s design standards, did the team move forward with planning.

Andrew Furman, a professor in the School of Interior Design and one of the four judges, said Urban Gateway appealed to him because of its attention to the issue of safety. While the other two finalists had notions of how to create a safe space, the Urban Gateway team zeroed in on the issue and presented a concrete plan to implement overhead lighting, Furman said.

“All the lights have been burnt out for years and it wasn’t feeling as safe as it should, so they have a great design solution,” he said. “That really stood out, the fact that they saw a problem and went and attacked it.”

Xie and Scarlato, along with interior design student Angela Abolhassani, designed their project in segments. Each segment focuses on a different theme, Xie said. Ryerson’s

bicycle room — a safe space for students and faculty to store bicycles — is highlighted by one segment, while another segment champions the mural. The six segments will be linked by a linear pattern of overhead lights.

Xie said she hopes the Victoria Street Lane will become a place for students to socialize, much like Gould Street is now.

“I hope that the lane way will become a much more welcoming space and it will also become something that identifies Ryerson, and adds value to the campus,” Xie said.

Urban Gateway enters a crowd-funding stage April 23, which will help expand the budget the team has to work with. Furman says the budget for the implementation of the project will be approximately $30,000.

Encouraging the relationship between Ryerson and the wider downtown community was important goal of the project, Scarlato said. She said having a space that displays Ryerson’s character while encouraging collaboration with the community and professionals is what the redesign is really about.

“Ryerson has asked to be part of the city and the city is part of Ryerson,” said Furman. “I really like to see that there is a full integration between the city’s pedestrian and Ryerson’s pedestrian policy where the idea is that Ryerson is a leader downtown.”

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