Design architect/architect of record: Perkins&Will
Completion Date: May 2023
In May 2023, York University, on the outskirts of Toronto, unveiled the new School of Continuing Studies, its newest building. Designed by the local outpost of Perkins&Will, its pivoting form, clad in a diagrid of glass and brushed aluminum, adds a distinctive twisting presence to the campus.
The 120,000-square-foot structure rises five stories. Its contorted form results from a geometric design process that shifts a rectangular floor plate around a common centroid, introducing a two-wave curve across the north and south facades. The warping plane informed the overall facade geometry, which contains a floor plan composed of modular learning clusters, lecture halls, and wellness amenities.
“It was initially generated by developing a diagrid geometry to loft the north and south facades using a simple mass in Rhino,” Andrew Frontini, Perkins&Will principal & design director, told AN. “A Grasshopper script was used to optimize the triangular panel size to accommodate the necessary floor-to-floor datums as well as the manufacturing limitations of both the glass and metal components.”
The glazing modules come in preassembled parallelogram-shaped units, manufactured by Carey Glass in Ireland. Specially produced in a range of sizes due to the twisting form of the building, they are composed as units of two large triangles, which are assigned unique local designations to secure the correct fit during installation. Each panel is clipped to the structural frame at the top of the panel and held below to maintain the angles.
A notable challenge for the design team accommodating the waterproofing and drainage system for the twisting facade. They tested mock-ups with weeping vents inserted between the unitized panels, simulating extreme weather events, which ultimately allowed for a taut building skin that ensures both ample daylight and high energy efficiency.
Though the project is ambitious, the design team had to keep budgetary considerations in place, and they balanced them by deploying a rigorous geometry of repeated off-the-shelf components. “The result is a biaxially symmetrical composition where a series of tilted structural frames increase their degrees of inclination in opposite directions as they move away from the center of the building,” Frontini said. “The rotation of the overall form introduces a two-way curve into the north and south facades. As the building rotates about its centroid, a triangulated panel pattern takes advantage of regular and biaxial symmetry to create zones of repeat panel shapes on both the long and short facades of the building.”
The work paid off, as the project received a 2023 Excellence in Design Award from the Ontario Glass & Metal Association. It is also on track to achieve LEED Gold certification. For the time being, the School of Continuing Studies is a welcome and tantalizing gateway to the York University campus.
Matthew Marani, studying city and regional planning at Pratt Institute, writes about architecture and urban design.
- Design architect/architect of record: Perkins&Will
- Location: Toronto
- Completion Date: May 2023
- Lighting design/AV/acoustics/ telecommunications: Smith + Andersen
- Signage/wayfinding: York University and Suria Design Studio
- Facade consultant: RDH
- General contractor: Aquicon Construction
- Facade system: Alumicor
- Glass: Carey Glass
- Windows: Alumicor
- Doors: Alumicor, Lambton
- Roofing: Johns Manville
- Waterproofing: Soprema
- Insulation: Soprema, Johns Manville