York University Student Centre
Designed by CannonDesign and opened in 2018, York University’s second student center is the result of a 2013 referendum in which the student body voted in favor of a second building devoted solely to student space.
The student centre secured the highest voter turnout for a student referendum in the history of Canadian post-secondary institutions, according to York University. Thousands of students were consulted for their ideas to make the building inclusive.
Keeping in mind the challenges that post-secondary students face in relation to loneliness, wellness, mental health, and self-confidence, the 150,000-square-foot building is designed to alleviate these concerns and welcome students of all faith, race and creed.
“The Student Centre has always been dedicated to the diverse York University student body that uses it each day. I don’t know of any other project that infused the breadth and depth of student engagement we undertook in the Centre’s design process. We asked, we listened and we understood our students in order to translate their hopes and needs into a building that can make valuable impacts on their experiences for generations,” said Siva Vimalachandran, Executive Director of the Centre.
A primarily transparent building façade acts as a design response to the student body’s desire for the Centre to be open and welcoming to all.
The two-story Alaskan yellow cedar fin exterior provides a bold elevational feature and a textural element to the façade. The fins soften the large expanse of welcoming glass, and introduce wood—a large part of the interior material palette—to the exterior.The facility’s top floor offers a large multi-faith prayer space where students of all religions are welcome to hold services. The space is used regularly by all faiths without conflict, and has served as a recruitment tool for the university.
“The building excels at responding to students on both individual and group levels. There are spaces for quiet reflection and study and areas for dynamic collaboration and friendship. We believe we’ve created a building where every student can feel welcome, safe, motivated and connected to their peers,” said Vimalachandran.
A wellness clinic in the building is open to all students, providing self-harm reduction tools and training, quiet time, and mental health counselling. A food pantry in the lower level of the building serves students facing food insecurity.
The building is a hub for student activity, hosting movie nights, socials and MultiCultural Week, an annual event which features international dance and food competitions.
With dance studios occupying the ground floor, it is not uncommon to see different international dances being practiced steps from the multi-faith prayer space on any given day.
Located at the north end of a campus green, the building’s central location makes it easily accessible to the 50,000 students who attend classes on campus. The Student Centre is pursuing LEED Silver certification.