Community and City-building at Ryerson – Part 2

by julia.hanigsberg | October 25th, 2011

In Part 1 of this blog post I proposed that Ryerson’s building projects are informed by a vision of creating seamless communities that unite our University to the life of the city that surrounds us. Now, in Part 2, I’ll go into more detail about the Master Plan that guides our efforts. I will also discuss the matter of space – both theoretical and real – as it informs our community-focused building projects.

Ryerson’s Master Plan

Since 2008, Ryerson’s city-building urban-landscape efforts have been guided by Ryerson’s Master Plan. This flexible framework is a powerful guide for our revitalization of the Ryerson campus and has proven to be a powerful catalyst for change and renewal in our University’s downtown neighbourhood. The Master Plan has three main principles:

  • Urban intensification
  • Putting people first
  • Commitment to design excellence.

Each of these elements is critical to city-building and long-term sustainability, and they are guiding Ryerson in our visible and community-focused role within Toronto’s dynamic urban landscape.

Space matters

Sufficient, suitable, and well-designed and maintained space builds community pride as well as contributes to student engagement and better learning outcomes. Researchers at the Center for Postsecondary Research at the University of Indiana contend that “Through buildings, signs and the landscape of the [university] campus, the physical environment communicates messages that influence students’ feelings of well-being, belonging and identity.” 

In a similar vein, early in his first term President Levy made improving Ryerson’s space one of his top priorities. Sheldon’s commitment to this priority was based both on a philosophy of community wellness, and on a number of space-related challenges facing our University:

  • Ryerson’s physical location is one of our biggest assets and one of our most immense challenges when it comes to capital projects. We simply do not have abundant undeveloped campus space waiting to be built upon. So, that means sometimes we need to re-imagine existing buildings to meet new needs; for example, at our newly opened Image Arts Building and the soon-to-open Ryerson Image Centre.
  • In terms of athletics facilities, Ryerson lags far behind many other universities. And this space shortfall has led to lower participation rates in athletic and team activities at our University than we’d like. The Ryerson Athletics Centre at the Gardens will change that forever. 
  • Ryerson students lack sufficient space for studying, group work, informal collaboration, and just plain hanging out together between and after class. Again, research has shown that highly engaged students have higher quality experiences at university, and their learning outcomes are better. So, we are thinking creatively about how to engage students, keeping them on campus to get involved with peers, faculty, and extra-curricular events. Hence our plans for an exciting Student Learning Centre.

City-building for people 

Ryerson’s building projects are defined by the experiences we wanted to create for students, staff, and faculty, as well as for members of the broader communities in which we operate and that we serve. But our projects are also tied to the particular geography this University inhabits, and that’s where city-building comes in.

I hope I have been able to give you a sense of the city-building seamlessness for which my colleagues and I at Ryerson are striving. By following the goals and principles of our Master Plan, we are following a course that will powerfully contribute to creating a more inclusive, innovative, interesting, healthy, and prosperous city for us all.

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