Ryerson School of Interior Design

Gow Hastings Architects set several goals in their renovation of Ryerson University’s School of Interior Design, in Toronto. The ground-floor challenge was to relocate the main entrance from a service lane to its front door on Church Street. This necessitated the redesign of the lobby, main office, chairperson’s office, faculty lounge, gallery, resource centre, students’ office and studio space.

Newly installed floor-to-ceiling glass opens up the main office to the corridor. Natural light was brought deep into the space by punching new window openings into the existing brick facade.

Fibreoptics enliven the corridor ramp with a constantly changing display of bold colours. The lights project onto a white folded drywall plane that highlights the subtle colour changes and conceals the large fixtures. To make this main circulation corridor feel wider, a linear slot, sunk to one side of the floor, houses uplighting, which shines through a softening, milk-glass lens. The slot also conceals fastenings for the brushed stainless-steel flat-bar handrail.

On the third floor, four classrooms can now be opened to the main corridor to give a gallery setting for functions like the year-end show of student work. Full-height sliding doors incorporate tackable surfaces for display. Coloured and translucent glass panels in the corridor allow glimpses into the classrooms.

The project takes advantage of the yellow brick and wood structure of the existing warehouse space. The materials palette features natural products like maple veneer, cork and linoleum flooring, and low-VOC products. Carpet tile and energy-efficient fluorescent light fixtures were selected for their low environmental impact.

Design team: Valerie Gow, partner; James Burkitt, associate; Jimmy Sun, architect; and Janice Lee, intern architect