The Eye

Now Even University Academic Buildings Are Trying to Look Like Tech Startups

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The new Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence at Toronto’s York University.

 

ZAS Architects

The new Lassonde School of Engineering’s Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence at Toronto’s York University is the latest educational facility to reinvent classroom design for the evolving needs of design- and tech-savvy 21st-century students. And what better way to prepare tomorrow’s engineers for their careers than by building an academic center that looks more like a tech startup?

“The entrepreneurial spirit is one of the defining objectives of the program and is reflected in the building itself,” Toronto-based ZAS Architects write in a project description, noting that the space is “comparable to a work environment,” with an “open layout [that] echoes the look and feel of start-up businesses.”

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At the new center, “student spaces take priority over faculty and staff,” the architects say.

ZAS Architects

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The Design Commons has flexible large and small group work areas to appear “more like a design studio than a student lounge,” the architects write.

ZAS Architects

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The student lounge includes “high-end furniture, finishes and nap rooms,” the architects write.

ZAS Architects

The “student-driven” design “re-thinks campus hierarchy to foster modern ways of learning,” the architects say, to encourage spontaneous faculty and student interaction and create “a project-based learning environment.” To foster student productivity, students are “given access to the best and brightest spaces,” while offices are located in the building core.

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The architects sought to create an “interactive environment that is not about regimented curriculum delivery but about group learning and problem solving.”

ZAS Architects

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The architects included flexible spaces throughout.  

ZAS Architects

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The usual rows of desks and lecture halls are replaced with “active learning classrooms.” The “activated hallways” include white boards and banquettes for spontaneous brainstorming and study sessions. A materials testing lab “provides an unprecedented hands-on approach to both learning and teaching that was previously only available to engineers in the field,” the architects write. “Bright open spaces replace traditional classrooms and labs. Integrated pods are configured with audiovisual learning tools that encourage students to spontaneously plug-in.”

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“Activated hallways” throughout are designed to foster work and problem-solving.

ZAS Architects

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A hands-on materials testing lab is insulated to minimize the impact of noise, reverberations and dust.  

ZAS Architects

Social spaces are integrated throughout, including a “Design Commons” the architects describe as “a gathering place for learning where students are encouraged to foster entrepreneurial ideas and prototype them,” and a “dedicated entrepreneurial lounge/presentation room” where students can pitch their ideas to outside firms.

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The building exterior.

ZAS Architects

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