Gow Hastings Architects Creates Contemporary Student Hub for Niagara College in Canada

A tall soffit canopy clad in cedar spills into the building, acting as passive wayfinding and creating continuity between the exterior and interior of the student hub along with perforated metal screens. Photography courtesy of Scott Norsworthy.

Tucked away in a rural community in Ontario's escarpment sits Niagara College, a school focused on applied arts and technology. But the college's 1970s-era Welland Campus did not quite reflect its culture of innovation, so Gow Hastings Architects stepped in to create a contemporary student hub (the firm earned an SBID International Design Award for Best Public Space for the project earlier this month). The new two-story, 35,000-square-foot Student Commons, which reflects the creative prowess of the college's students, features additional classrooms, a welcome center, food court, retail space, student activity room, and plenty of nooks for quiet study or team collaborations. The building also includes a new, north-facing entrance and floor-to-ceiling glass walls coated with glazing, enabling natural light to flood in.

Playful details are strategically integrated throughout to enhance the school's overall branding, such as custom-designed pendant lights shaped like X’s and O’s, circular LED lights, and large-scale super-graphics visible from in and outside the building. The oversized lettering, chevrons, and dots applied to the building's fully glazed expanse make for a striking, easily recognizable facade. And for a taste of home, the design team outfitted the Student Commons with a gas fireplace–creating a cozy and inviting space, which beckons students to stay a while. 

Throughout the space, tinted green glass partitions and inset dark porcelain tiles define the seating areas, creating niches while students relax in seating by Corian and back-lit oak benches. Photography courtesy of Scott Norsworthy. 

A window frit inspired by the perforated screen with custom X and O lighting by Sistemalux and Delray Lighting and light-weight stackable furniture by Accent Learning Environments adds to the playfulness and flexibility of the space. Photography courtesy of Scott Norsworthy. 
Mirrors accentuate the natural light from clerestory windows within the food hall. Photography courtesy of Scott Norsworthy. 
View of the north entrance at night. Photography courtesy of Scott Norsworthy. 
An indigo blue felt wall with embedded LED lights creates a surprising graphic element while also absorbing sound. Photography courtesy of Scott Norsworthy. 
Curved, perforated metal panels read "Niagara College Canada" in a welcoming gesture. Photography courtesy of Scott Norsworthy. 
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