The new Ryerson Student Learning Centre at Yonge and Gould is probably my favourite project under construction. It creates a meaningful addition of space for Ryerson’s tens-of-thousands of students who know how difficult it can be (myself once included) to find study space. Where Ryerson could have gone with the ubiquitous slab-column rectobox, they’ve gone far beyond expectation with a building that has a bold modern shape. Today I had the privilege of going on a great hardhat tour of the building thanks to Ryerson’s Campus Facilities and Sustainability office — they were able to show me everything up to the fourth floor.

We entered through the O’Keefe Laneway entrance and made our way up. Workers were busy hanging the first pieces of cladding:

image by Bryan Bonnici

Inside, the building is a hive of activity with scaffolding and temporary supports everywhere. I’ve never seen so much scaffolding in one building. The workers navigate around it effortlessly. I watch my step.

image by Bryan Bonnici

Our first stop is the main atrium. Coming out of the stairwell, the vantage point is towards the northwest corner, which will eventually be bleachers:

image by Bryan Bonnici

The thought that the architects put into using natural light is clearly evident here. No fixtures are installed yet and the room is very bright. Turn around, and the view is of the main entrance. When the scaffolding is removed, part of the atrium (shown left in the picture below) will extend further up to the third floor. The prominent stairwell along the Gould side of the building leads to future Digital Media Zone space. The signature apex on the right still needs time to cure.

image by Bryan Bonnici

We move upwards, and exit the stairwell squeezing tightly by workers installing cladding on the north side. The bridge to the existing library building has been recently installed. The lower floor of the bridge is for students, the upper floor, for faculty only.

image by Bryan Bonnici

Another floor up. The elevator bank here will overlook the atrium, but for now it’s covered. There are four main elevators; one is obscured by the pillar. Elsewhere, there’s a private DMZ elevator, another for the retail, and one for freight. On the far left is an emergency stairwell, and on the right, a passage to mechanical services, including a large ventilation shaft that runs the entire height of the building.

image by Bryan Bonnici

The wall for the faculty bridge has yet to be punched out of the existing library. It doesn’t have to be as wide:

image by Bryan Bonnici

Beside the elevators is a remarkable vantage point. The northwest corner gives a shot down Elm:

image by Bryan Bonnici

We make our way across the false floor (myself with a little more trepidation than my tour guide) into DMZ space. The apex will make for a very impressive office:

image by Bryan Bonnici

We made our way down to the basement which was very roomy:

image by Bryan Bonnici

Ryerson hasn’t announced whether this space will be for one or two retailers. Zeidler/Snøhetta have designed it for either case. The tenant(s) will tell EllisDon how they want the stairwell(s) to connect to street level. Workers were busy laying a cinder block wall that extends the wall above to form the back of retail space. I sprouted a pair of wings and took a picture of the area from the balcony:

image by Bryan Bonnici

We wrapped things up with a visit to the loading docks. I think I’m looking through the part the truck backs into. Beyond the tarp is O’Keefe Laneway — the docks are at a shallow angle to fit long trucks.

image by Bryan Bonnici

We pop out the northwest side. The view down Elm even at ground level is amazing, and the light penetrates far into the building:

image by Bryan Bonnici

Hidden behind the outside wall is an organized chaos.

image by Bryan Bonnici

To close things out, always keep your head up high:

image by Bryan Bonnici

There are currently two shifts working on the building, though I’m told that they may have to up it to three to keep schedule because the long cold snap has slowed their pouring. The current pour is the “beach”, a large tilted slab that forms the main collaborative space of the building.

I want to give a very very special thanks to Ryerson and EllisDon for taking me on this tour. You guys are the best. Looking forward to seeing this building when it’s mostly done sometime next year! Thanks also to Zeidler/Snøhetta for their great work on this building!

Bryan Bonnici is a Ryerson Electrical Engineering graduate. You can find the full version of this article on Bryan's blog here, and you can find higher-res versions on these photos (and more) on his Flickr page here.

Want to see lots of renderings of the Ryerson Student learning Centre? Check out our dataBase file, linked below. Want to talk about it? Join in on the discussion in the associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.

Related Companies:  EllisDon, entro, LiveRoof Ontario Inc, Ryerson University, Snøhetta, Zeidler Partnership Architects