Former brewery warehouse is transformed into new educational space
For the past 50 years, students of the Image Arts program at Ryerson University in Toronto have been kept in the dark. Their educational space was a former brewery warehouse where wafts of hops were legend. As the downtown campus grew, this hermetic, almost windowless bunker held down an increasingly prominent intersection, defiantly turning its back to campus life all around it.
As if to encourage a rethink of this bulwark building, the city parks department transformed an adjacent lot into a public square with a large pond and ten-foot-high boulders. Yet the building and the public square existed in isolation until the University found impetus to re-purpose the building with the remarkable anonymous donation of the renowned Black Star photography collection - 292,000 photojournalistic images that document and define the 20th-century. Ryerson would create a centre of photographic research, exhibition and archive of international stature that would integrate with the school's activities.
The renovation and expansion of the 100,000-square-foot building sought to create a crossroads between university life, post-graduate study and the public realm. By opening up all three stories with fully glazed perimeter corridors and new informal study space, the program becomes legible and offers a welcoming presence. The reveal further serves to unify the academic life with the addition of the Ryerson Image Centre (RIC), where galleries at grade invite interest and activity and where the indoors and outdoors meet on a terrace with a café and seating that blends with the adjacent square and a newly created pedestrian thoroughfare.
Completed in September 2012, the RIC is a museum-quality facility with state-of-the-art research, storage and exhibition space. The public area houses a main gallery, Great Hall, student gallery and a Colonnade with a permanent video installation visible from the square.
A luminous façade encircles all four sides of the building that further announces the Centre and refreshed School of Image Arts to the campus and the city. The double-skin glass cladding conceals an LED lighting system. By day, this opaque glass surface provides a seamless white backdrop to bustling campus life and contrasts the centre's transparent glazing at ground level. At night, a dynamic display of multi-coloured lights glows in separate panels or in unison, transforming the building into a work of art as a programmable and interactive light installation using an app designed at Ryerson University. Made with light - the stuff of photography - this feature engages the civic realm and represents this new cultural destination to the city.
To view a demonstration of the light installation, please see:
To view a demonstration of the interactive feature, please see: