Our willingness to embrace architectural ornamentation is still recovering from the relatively conservative 20th-century, a period dominated by modern structures that emphasized function over form and found beauty in simplicity. While contemporary architects are for the most part continuing to adhere to the general tenets of Modernism, they're starting to explore and experiment with applied ornamentation. Foster and Partners' Leslie L. Dan Pharmacy Building at the University of Toronto employs architectural lighting within a relatively modern framework, while Studio Gang's Aqua Tower in Chicago wrapped a modern structure in curvaceous balconies in order to create a more sculptural project. The introduction of these structurally irrelevant ornaments contrasts with the buildings' otherwise minimalist simplicity, producing unique and contemporary designs.

Red illumination at Ryerson Image Centre, image courtesy of Diamond Schmitt Architects

Nowhere would an interactive building be more appropriate than a university campus, institutions where students are encouraged to push boundaries and question perceived-norms. Ryerson University’s Image Centre is a building that has not shied away from incorporating aesthetic novelty, a contemporary structure with an innovative and illuminating façade. Designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects Inc., the building’s soon-to-be interactive lighting - an app is coming - won Architectural Lighting's Light & Architecture Design Award for Best Use of Color, recognizing the unique installation that Diamond Schmitt conceived of for the building.

Pink and varied illumination at Ryerson Image Centre, image courtesy of Diamond Schmitt Architects

The renovated Image Centre was wrapped in a double-skin glass cladding, under which was installed an extensive LED lighting system. During the day the exterior is opaque and relatively quiet, however at night it illuminates in full force, the three façades either working in unison or independent of one another. In total there are a whopping 16.7 million color combinations possible, a dynamic façade that reflects the university’s changing image within the downtown core.

Day and night contrast of lighting at Ryerson Image Centre, courtesy of Diamond Schmitt Architects

The Image Centre was renovated and expanded by DSAI in order to support the growing faculty and house the notable Black Star Collection, a 300,000-image collection of 20th-century photojournalism. The building will house a number of gallery spaces on the main floor, parallel to 'Lake Devo', with the School of Image Arts occupying the remainder of the building. The centre officially opens on September 29 with an exhibition that explores the Black Star Collection. The full list of exhibitions that will be visiting the centre over the coming year can be found here.

For more information on Ryerson’s Image Centre, check out the UrbanToronto dataBase listing below, or head over to the associated thread to join the conversation.

Related Companies:  CFMS Consulting Inc., Diamond Schmitt Architects, Ryerson University