Centennial HP Science and Technology Centre

Centennial HP Science and Technology Centre in Toronto, Ontario by KPMB Architects

The following text and images are courtesy Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects. Photographs copyright Tom Arban.

The HP Science and Technology Centre was catalyzed by a government initiative to forge stronger connections between universities and community colleges in order to meet demands for trained individuals in the labor market. The design creates a model that actualizes the ‘communal’ aspect of the community college and is based on the idea of a self-sufficient academic village.

The HP Centre is located on the UTSC Scarborough campus lands leased to Centennial by the University of Toronto. It is situated at the south-east corner of a high-speed traffic corridor within the watershed of the Highland Creek. The site slopes south to the Highland Creek ravine and Lake Ontario. A four-story structure composed of two horizontal wings forms a broad V-shape that sits precisely within the contours of the triangular lot. The ground levels of the south and west elevations are expressed as dark, charcoal brick retaining walls which follow the sloped topography. Above these extended strips of horizontal glazing articulate the piano nobile. Two horizontal bar buildings containing the third and fourth levels are elevated above the piano nobile and oriented parallel to their respective thoroughfares to the west and east. The north-east elevation, clad in prefabricated corrugated black steel, fans out to embrace the ridge of the tableland, and defines an outdoor courtyard. A glazed north elevation with a perimeter stair opens to a visitor and faculty parking lot.

The concept creates an internalized academic village which responds to the Canadian climate. The south-east entrance occurs where the two wings meet and is articulated as a transparent gateway that draws students into the heart of the space, the Town Square. The Town Square creates a focal point for gathering and events and is connected to the resource center and café.

A large wood volume containing a lecture hall fills the Square, and provides a single point of reference for orientation in the building. It is suspended above a broad flight of ‘Spanish Steps’ which embody the sloped topography within the interior architecture. The Spanish Steps are also fully wired for laptops and provide formal assembly space for events and graduation ceremonies.

In each wing, light-filled interior streets run along both sides of central atria and provide generous circulation spaces culminating in lounges and views to the exterior. The emphasis on transparency allows the light, color and weather of changing seasons to be drawn into the interiors.

While the interior streets pull together the social realm of the building, the atria achieve hybrid ventilation and maximize natural light. The design creates seamless integrations of low-tech strategies such as building orientation with user needs. For example, systems of movement through the building are activated from three sides: the south-east entrance at ground level accommodates students arriving via public transit; the second level entrance provides direct access from the visitor parking lot on the north; and the fourth level entrance is linked directly to a parking lot on the tableland to the north-east via a sculpted pedestrian bridge.

Exposed concrete on the interior provides ease and economy of maintenance as well as a high thermal mass to exceed the ASHRAE 90.1 standard for energy efficiency by 40%. Mechanical systems combine natural ventilation with an access floor air delivery system that creates displacement ventilation. Large expanses of south- and west-facing glazing are shaded by horizontal and vertical louvers, and frit and tinted glass, and provide views to the ravine.

Because Centennial’s curricula are variable to respond to changing technologies and industry demands, the concept adapts the characteristics of a loft building to create flexible and generic space in order to facilitate constant change. The concrete framed structure is designed as a 20 x 40 foot structural grid with clear span raised floors, operable windows, high ceilings and internal partitions that can be shifted on a five foot grid.

The HP Centre offers a mature model for a community college that embraces the gamut of arrivals and departures; that supports the daily needs of students and faculty to socialize, to be nourished, to learn and study, to teach and instruct; and that creates a context in which to be inspired and to celebrate achievement.