ZAS Architects Unveils Design for University of Toronto's New Learning Landscape

ZAS Architects Unveils Design for University of Toronto's New Learning Landscape

ZAS Architects, in collaboration with CEBRA Architecture, has unveiled the design for a new student-centered learning and support hub at the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus (UTSC). The new facility - Instructional Centre Phase 2 (IC-2) - is a dynamic learning landscape that promotes agile and asynchronous education through a complex arrangement of rooms and open public spaces spanning multiple floors.

"We envisioned a truly flexible environment that broke down traditional pedagogies and instead, encouraged a fluid learning experience unconfined by the walls of the classroom," commented Paul Stevens, Founder, and Senior Principal at ZAS Architects. "Peer-to-peer learning is emulated in all aspects of the design."

Artificially-created terrain spills from the outside in, creating a hybrid of social and study areas that stimulate and support vibrant campus life. Students have access to a multitude of flexible, technology-enabled spaces, including 21 classrooms of various sizes and configurations ranging from a 500-seat auditorium to smaller 24-seat active learning environments.

Learning spaces sit on top of one another, creating opportunities for platform and bleacher seating space known as the Knoll, which scales the roof of the 210-seat Butterfly Cave tiered auditorium.

Meanwhile the Coffice - a large study/social space - sits atop the Campfire auditorium, a multi-purpose hexagonal lecture theatre that seats 500 and protrudes two meters above the ground floor. Ascending rows allow for spatial flexibility and creates a dynamic viewing experience for students with the presenter positioned at the center. The design also promotes immersive learning in an interactive, asynchronous environment with surrounding digital screens.

The framed grid that forms the building's façade creates a design that combines various volumes, scales, surfaces and spatial qualities. Inspired by the form of Printer's Tray predominantly used during the 19th Century, the building's four distinct façades mirror the tray's compartments and represent the diversity of spaces and educational environments within.

Building on the notion of a building hovering above, the recessed grade-level façade is highly transparent with mullion-free structural glass panes. The learning landscape extends horizontally across the entire ground floor, enriching student flow and way-finding. Inspired by the Highland Creek ravine that weaves through the campus, the design is guided by the desire to extend green space indoors. Meanwhile, two rooftop gardens also merge indoor and outdoor spaces to enhance the public realm within the building's upper levels.

Images: Courtesy of ZAS Architects

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