This short-listed response to the University of Windsor’s call for a design proposal for its new campus Welcome Centre provided an opportunity to explore concepts of place-making and situatedness. The building was to have a dual organizing function within the wider campus context – both as a gateway and a pivotal hinge.
Kearns Mancini’s vision for the University of Windsor Welcome Center was for a light and transparent building that would transform the Campus precinct, provide a fresh perspective onto academia and student life, provide inter-connectivity between interior and exterior to invoke institutional transparency, create a new gathering place in the landscape, and function at a grand scale as the Campus gateway, connecting the University with the wider context of the city. The Welcome Centre is prominently located on campus. The site is bound by Wyandotte Street West and Sunset Avenue, at the western edge of the campus and near the Ambassador Bridge to the USA. Within this context, the project was designed to create a gateway building at the heart of the campus, with a central meeting and collaboration space directly connected to the exterior landscaped forecourt.
This layout allows the design to engage all visitors, students, faculty members, donors and returning alumni and provides the opportunity to develop a didactic building. Not only will this building literally and figuratively signify the entrance to the campus, but it will both kick-start a student’s academic career and simultaneously celebrate the past history of students and the University of Windsor. The Welcome Centre was intended to be an advertisement for the university’s ethos, and the technologically advanced innovative thinking facilitated within.
Current trends in both education and workplace design focus on much greater mobility and freedom of location to work. These developments are based on the observation that innovation can happen anywhere. Technology has facilitated the movement out of the classroom/office and into non-formal environments. Thus, the Welcome Centre’s large collaborative reception is a meeting space that provides what many in academics describe as providing the “stickiness” to a Campus, encouraging the building’s inhabitants to socialize and work together.
Gross Project Area
15,000 sq. ft.
University of Windsor
Jonathan Kearns, Peter Ng, Alice Gibson
The floor plate extends from exterior to interior, creating an inviting space to draw the visitor or student inward. The cruciform plan layout allows for simplicity in circulation and orientation, and provides links both within and without the building, drawing the wider campus into the ground floor plane. Each quadrant of the cruciform was dedicated to specific and complementary uses, such that the various programs would blend together.
Sustainable design was critical to our approach to the design of the Welcome Centre, having been driven by an ambition to achieve a net zero energy footprint. The firm didn’t approach the ecological design of the building with a checklist, but through holistic design approaches that consider the embodied and life-cycle energy input and output of a building, which should ultimately lead to spaces that reflect cycles of use and habitation. Subsequently, Kearns Mancini asked how university buildings can integrate ‘sustainable’ approaches to design into the educational, social and environmental aspects of the building’s design. Thus the proposal seeks to produce a climate and energy strategy that was specific to the program, project location and the operating capabilities of the University.