As a way of embracing and encouraging multiculturalism, Ryerson University developed an innovative program to welcome and support international students in their pursuit of a Canadian education. Through this, the Ryerson English as an Additional Language (REAL) Institute was born. With the help of the KMAI design team, Ryerson University was able to achieve its vision of creating a warm and inviting space that allows its students to fully immerse themselves in Canadian culture.
Located in one of Toronto’s most iconic and highly trafficked buildings, the client was faced with a challenging space. The large floor plate and acoustic tile ceilings, that blocked the top portion of the perimeter windows, created a dark and unwelcoming space. As a response, the acoustic tile ceiling was removed and large circular light features were cut in to the ceiling giving the allusion of natural light penetrating the interior of the space.
Inspired by the program’s philosophy, Ryerson University commissioned an art piece that would serve as an analogous representation of the students’ journey. Through a highly collaborative process, Coda was created. The design team worked closely on the concept and execution with photographer Grant Te Brugge. The images entitled “Transitions” follows the seasonal transformations of the Canadian forest. Overlaid on the graphic are the cast acrylic sculptures designed by artist Kal Mansur. Coda is defined as “the concluding passage of a piece or movement, typically forming an addition to a basic structure.” Each word is represented by an acrylic sculpture that is an abstracted form of Canadian symbolism.
At the outset, a feasibility study was conducted that allowed the client and the design team to understand the space and develop a design that would meet REAL Institute’s requirements. The primary challenge of this project was that the client needed the space to accommodate the anticipated growth of the program while maintaining a welcoming and homey space for the students.
As a result, large flexible spaces were designed around the perimeter with a student hub strategically placed at the centre of the floorplate. Clusters of circular seating, tables and risers create a flexible space that students can use for lounging and studying between classes. The use of vibrant colours and patterns create a warm and welcoming environment for both the students and the faculty. The design incorporates commercial elements such as garage doors, operable partitions, bamboo benches and shape-shift furniture.