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Transforming the campus and the city


Construction on the $112 million Student Learning Centre (seen here in an artist's rendering) is set to finish by winter 2015.

Two years after breaking ground, construction on Ryerson’s stunning eight-storey, $112 million Student Learning Centre (SLC) is entering its final stages.

The SLC is transforming the corner of Yonge and Gould Streets into a vibrant intersection for the city and providing the Ryerson community with an outstanding environment to study, collaborate and share ideas. The eight-storey building features bright, open, technologically rich, barrier-free spaces for Ryerson students to pursue individual and collaborative study and a variety of learning environments, digital support and academic services to foster a culture of collaboration and creativity.

Though the SLC will change an important intersection on Yonge Street, the goal is also to blend in with the community. In addition to housing academic and study spaces for students and faculty, the facility will offer a café, a bridge to the Ryerson Library, and storefront retail space. One of the main features is the accessible entry plaza at the northeast corner of Yonge and Gould which will draw students and visitors into the building while connecting the corner to the main foyer of the SLC.

“This is a very unique building with extraordinary architectural features, almost nothing in the building is generic,” said Julia Hanigsberg, vice-president, administration and finance at Ryerson.

The Design
Designed by the team of Snohetta and Zeidler Partnership Architects, the exceptional building features a unique look defined by its curtain wall (the building’s exterior glass skin) of triple-pane glass with a ceramic frit pattern baked onto the exterior. “It actually plays an energy role,” said Peter Vankessel, senior project manager of Capital Projects & Real Estate. “We have a certain percentage of the exterior frit that reflects the sunlight, which reduces the mechanical energy loads on the inside of the building.”

By creating varying lighting qualities within the interior, students will be able to find a space to study in direct sunlight or in more diffuse lighting.

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) compliant design also includes a skylight that will illuminate the interior during the day, and three green roofs, including one covering 50 per cent of the top of the building. The team also worked to ensure the glass exterior wouldn’t overheat the inside: an umbilical system connects the SLC building to a chilled water supply source from the basement of the neighbouring Library. The innovative and eco-friendly design won Canadian Architect Magazine’s national Award of Excellence in December 2011.

The building’s unusual, sloped shape combined with the compact size of the lot, meant the construction team would have its work cut out for it. “Geometrically, it’s a very complex structure,” said Vankessel. “It’s not like building a condo. On this, every floor is different, and the geometries are different.”

The Construction
Most of the curtain wall was manufactured before it was required on site. The panels for the glass curtain wall were fabricated in Montreal then combined with the aluminum framing elements in a Mississauga plant before being transported piece-by-piece as needed to Yonge Street. To ensure the integrity of the exterior skin of the building during extreme weather conditions, a portion of the curtainwall system was taken to a testing facility in Miami, where it underwent structural, thermal, and moisture tests. “It performed very well under 130 km/h moisture-laden, wind conditions,” Vankessel said.

Paid-duty police and flag persons have been on the scene for the duration of construction, to shepherd pedestrians and occasionally halt traffic. “We have to keep the pedestrians away from the boundaries, just to protect them,” said Vankessel. “We had to have a flag person on either side, and completely stop traffic when we’re moving a piece of material across the street.”

At the intersection of Yonge and Gould, the construction team not only has to coexist with a pre-existing university campus, a subway, a power vault, and a dense network of nearby commercial retailers; it also had to work with one of the busiest pedestrian populations in the city. “There are a lot of practical things in terms of: How do you actually do a major piece of construction on a street like Yonge in downtown Toronto? All of that adds to the complexity of the city planning process,” said Hanigsberg.

The construction team was challenged by Toronto’s long, cold winter. “The most important thing on a construction site is the health and safety of the people working there,” said Hanigsberg. “You’re never going to compromise that to keep on a schedule. There were certainly days that, because of wind or the cold, construction couldn’t happen.”

Despite these challenges, Hanigsberg notes that the project has remained within budget. Construction is scheduled to finish by the end of the calendar year, after which the interior will be completed for a projected spring opening.

For more information on the Student Learning Centre, visit