- Clients: York University
- City: Toronto
- Country: Canada
Text description provided by the architects. York University, Canada’s third-largest university, created a second student center on campus, designed to respond to the changing needs of York’s large and diverse community. The project is the result of a 2013 referendum in which the student body voted in favor of a second building devoted solely to student space. The referendum secured the highest voter turnout in the history of Canadian post-secondary institutions, with approximately 90% of students voting in favor.
“This project excels at creating a campus destination where all students can feel welcome, safe, engaged and motivated to excel,” said Brad Lukanic, CEO of CannonDesign and a member of the York Second Student Centre project team. “York University made inclusive design part of this project’s mission from day one. The Second Student Centre stands as a paragon of how design can make measurable positive differences in both campus culture and students' lives.”
Conceived as a “living room” for student life and designed in complete collaboration with York’s diverse student body, the building is remarkably inclusive for students of all faith, race and creed. It stands as a model for other institutions as it reduces stigma to help students connect and thrive. Just some of the building’s dynamic features include: The top floor offers a large multi-faith prayer space where students of all religions are welcome to hold service and pray. The space is used regularly by all faiths without conflict and has even served as a recruitment tool for students of faith
A food pantry in the lower level of the building serves students facing food insecurity. A wellness clinic in the building is open to all students who may need someone to talk to, self-harm reduction tools and training, quiet time, mental health counseling recommendations and more. Moreover, feminine hygiene products are available for free in all of the centre’s bathrooms. A bustling club space connects students from all different student clubs.
Just a few we spoke with on a recent visit include: Hallyu Dongari (students interested in Korean culture); Middle Eastern Student Organizations, the Latin American club and numerous others. The building is a hub for student activity, hosting movie nights, socials and Multicultural Week which features international dance and food competitions annually. There are dance studios on the ground floor. It is not uncommon to see different international dances being practiced steps from the multi faith prayer space on any given day. Rooted in safety design principles that embrace natural light, maximized sight lines and more, there is not a single space where one should feel unsafe in the building.
Located at the north end of a significant campus green, the student center’s central location makes it easily accessible to the 50,000 students who attend classes on campus. The design includes an array of sustainable and user-led initiatives, including bicycle parking, showers, green roofs, high-performance glazing/curtain wall, gender-neutral washrooms, and extensive use of natural lighting to promote principles of community safety, accessibility and environmental sustainability. A primarily transparent building façade acts as a design response to the student body’s desire to be open and welcoming to all.