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Ryerson’s REAL Institute Wins IDC Value of Design Award of Merit

November 21, 2018

This fall, Ryerson’s REAL Institute in College Park won the inaugural Value of Design Award (VODA) for Innovation in Institutional/Educational/Civic Design from Interior Designers of Canada (IDC). This new award showcases the benefits of design thinking toward realizing solutions that create evocative spaces that meet or exceed pragmatic requirements and satisfy fundamental human needs.

The REAL Institute design won for its functionality, responsive design thinking process, and how the design works to enhance the user experience. The award was presented to Donna Dolan, director of interior architecture at Kearns Mancini Architects on September 18, 2018.

Linking design and construction for cohesion and efficiency

Initiated by Darrick Heyd, senior advisor, academic space planning, the REAL Institute was constructed using a design-build contract with procurement support from Danny Greenfield and legal services by Glenda Mallon.

A design-build method means that the design and construction services were linked together and contracted to a single entity, Trigon Construction. Trigon partnered with Kearns Mancini Architects, with Trigon providing general contracting services and Kearns Mancini the design and project administration services. Ryerson retained a payment certifier, G Architects, to independently review the construction progress and payment process.

Design-build is a great approach for integrating new construction into a historical or heritage building like College Park, where seamless coordination between design and construction is a must. The design-build process also allows for overlap between the design and construction phases, which can make a critical difference when working with very short timelines. For the REAL Institute, completing the project quickly—approximately 15 weeks for construction—was a key priority.

Planning the space to meet programming and user needs

For the design-build project to go smoothly, Ryerson had to produce a design brief as early as possible. Janet Hercz, executive director, business operations and space planning and Elizabeth Beninger, space planning assistant developed the functional program (a breakdown of the types of spaces required). Kearns Mancini Architects worked on the specifications, design-build memorandum and test-fit layouts to create the design brief. The institute’s program director, Gerd Hauck, and his team, Stephan Tang, Nenita Elphick and Courtney Oreja, worked with the architect and the Project Management Office (PMO) in Ryerson’s Facilities Management and Development (FMD) to prepare a list of pedagogy and technology needs.

The resulting VODA-winning renovation provides a perimeter of 22 technology-rich classrooms, easily reconfigurable multi-use spaces with moveable partitions, modular furniture (sourced by the PMO’s Sylvia Richmond, project coordinator, interior design and furniture, furnishings and equipment, and Annie Dewar, interior design intern) and a centralized hub that emphasizes student experience and comfort.

The permanent art installation, Coda—by artist Kal Mansur with photography by Grant Te Brugge from the PMO—works with other design elements to create a thematic spatial composition that corresponds to the transformative journey of an international student experiencing Canada’s environment and Toronto’s multicultural community.

Collaborating for the best possible result

The collaboration between Ryerson and the design-build team allowed the project to move forward quickly and create an innovative learning environment with room to grow. PMO Project Manager Danny Baltazar credits the REAL Institute team’s thoroughness, Kearns Mancini’s creative solutions and producing a comprehensive plan from the get-go, and Trigon Construction for being able to deliver the ambitious project on time despite some unexpected challenges presented by the leased heritage space.

For more information

To learn more about this award-winning space, check out a virtual tour of the REAL Institute or read the Ryerson Works article, Making leased space our own: The Real Institute.