Ryerson University School of Interior Design

Originally three 19th-century brick warehouse buildings merged as one in the 1980s, the Ryerson University School of Interior Design previously lacked clarity with floorplates at various heights, poor lighting and a back door that provided more popular access than the front.

The new school knits new and existing construction, presenting users with a coherent experience of openness and light. The historic brick and timber shell and exposed ducts and beams are merged with crisp detailing of white drywall and pin-up boards with maple accents. Special lighting and splashes of translucent pink glass provide the school with an identifiable character while also highlighting to students how light and colour can affect mood and the surrounding environment.

Throughout the interior, floor-to-ceiling internal windows and porous spaces provide constant views of things being made. New elements provide plenty of dual function, such as rolling walls with pin-up surfaces and fold-out bars, that inspire creativity and provide the school with opportunities to reinvent itself for a variety of teaching and exhibition scenarios. Materials such as carpet tile, cork and linoleum flooring were selected for their low environmental impact, emphasizing thoughtful sustainable design. Large windows let natural light flood the classrooms and offices, with occupancy and daylight sensors to ensure an even glow of fluorescent lighting as required.

A highlight of the renovation was the transformation of what was previously a ground floor corridor with an awkward transition in floor heights into a feature ramp lit by a fiber optic system that washes the walls with boldly coloured light. A back-lit milk-glass slot in the floor gives the impression of spaciousness and adds a sense of weightlessness to the ramp while so hiding the fastenings for the stainless steel handrail. On the third floor, an open studio was revamped into four classrooms with full-height, 12-foot wide rolling doors that open up to each other and entirely to the main corridor to establish a large open gallery space.

Ryerson University, Toronto, ON

Size:  12,335 sq. ft.
Completion:  September 2009

“Gow Hastings embraced the opportunity to help us achieve a greater impact for the Ryerson School of Interior Design than the initial budget would allow. To help tame the costs, they took on this challenge by engaging industry partners, who then willingly contributed their time and resources to the project. Gow Hastings worked exceptionally hard to make the project the success it was. It is fair to say that the level of service provided by Gow Hastings was unrivaled and resulted in a valuable gain to both the school and the university.”

Erica Tornquist
Project Coordinator, Campus Planning & Facilities, Ryerson University

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