Université de l’Ontario français Campus
By : Gow Hastings Architects
GRANDS PRIX DU DESIGN – 15e édition
Discipline : Interior Design
Categories : Education, Institution & Healthcare / University & Higher Education : Gold Certification
The Université de l'Ontario français (UOF) is Ontario’s first French-language university governed for and by Franco-Ontarians. Rooted in an emerging start-up and innovation neighbourhood, the 50,000 sf campus is home to the mobilization and creation of French-language education in Ontario. Occupying the entire second floor of a mixed-use building, the campus was designed to retain existing industrial elements while introducing a new vision for academic design focussed on student-faculty interaction.
The design embraces the irregular shape and exposed concrete of the building, which embodies the spirit of the surrounding waterfront. Students ascend to campus on escalators following a 60-foot incline – a dramatic vertical climb heightened by a constellation of glittering tubular LED spike lights and a 9-metre-long mural painted by a Métis graffiti artist. Opening onto the reception, a suspended bulkhead establishes a horizontal plane that lowers the ceiling’s expanse. The horizontal plane builds a portal to campus’ smaller vessels, while the desk serves as a one-stop shop to all campus offerings. Flowing from open volumes into enclosed spaces, the campus is inventively shaped by angled exterior walls and irregular column spacing.
Custom lights cleverly extend through circulation spaces, connecting each vessel and encouraging the eye to climb onward. Seating arrangements set atop swathes of resilient sheet flooring form chartreuse colour blocks that contrast the cool raw concrete. The university’s bold branding palette of brilliant green and rich magenta is further infused across campus in oversized text on the underside of the escalators, seating and felt feature walls.
Conceptually unique assembly areas are suited to academic collision required for UOF’s transdisciplinary program offerings. The first agora holds 150 students in tiered telescopic seating for large lectures, while the second is a rectangular classroom activated by fluid and moveable table arrangements. Linking the agoras is the third space, a transitional seating area with the ability to shift between uses. Boosting interaction between faculty, the sandbox is a collaborative think tank for testing learning methods that keep UOF avant-garde.
Based on environmental impact, the design is respectful of materials, resources and building maintenance. Concrete ceilings and walls were left exposed to reduce the amount of new materials produced, while added materials, paints and finishes were chosen for their low environmental impact, recycled content, and durability in high-traffic areas. Additional sustainability initiatives include low-flush plumbing fixtures, roller shades programmed on daylight sensors to mitigate thermal transmission, and energy efficient LED lighting systems on occupancy sensors.
Wrapped in floor-to-ceiling glazing, the 360-degree campus showcases the city on all sides – as well as the university’s brand identity. The perimeter of campus is largely dedicated to public space, allowing equal access to panoramic views and natural light. The fully glazed public space brings light deep into interior rooms through connecting corridors, activated for informal learning with large white pendant lights and encapsulating oversized lounge chairs that feel like private study niches. Extending behind a wide span of glazing is a raised supergraphic layered with exterior UOF signage – easily seen from the adjacent highway to proudly announce UOF’s arrival.