Growing through a student-centric, experiential academic design
With over 50,000 students learning at three Greater Toronto Area (GTA) campuses, Humber College has established itself as a premier post-secondary institution in Canada since its founding in 1967. The goal for the International Graduate School (IGS) was to build upon that reputation with the expansion of their first facility in Toronto’s downtown core. From project inception it was clear that Humber’s vision was to create a multifunctional space that inspired learning, collaboration, and innovation — connecting learners and industry in a professional learning environment, through an experiential academic design.
The IGS offers over ten programs tailored specifically for international graduate students looking to launch their business-focused careers in Canada or gain advanced standing for continuing master’s education at one of Humber’s global partners. We were challenged to design a space that reflected and nurtured the blending of academic and professional activity. A place for students, faculty, and industry leaders to collaborate through a combination of 1-on-1 mentorship, group discussions, or events.
The space also had to integrate state-of-the-art technology that enabled simultaneous virtual and physical classroom learning to accommodate a global student body. The IGS is the first Humber facility located outside of their three main campuses and it is dispersed across three floors of a mixed-use building. This meant that the design had to give students the distinct experience of being a part of the Humber College campus and community while connecting them to the downtown core.
Through an extensive collaborative process, we leveraged our wider experience in educational design to establish a number of drivers early in the project that informed the direction throughout. Program diversification, the use of distinct geometries, and a primarily blue and yellow colour palette reflecting Humber’s branding were chosen as design strategies.
The IGS is a truly unique space that reflects the distinct goals of the program. It takes design cues and strategies we have developed through our extensive workplace portfolio and integrates those into a professional post-secondary environment. The learning commons provides a place for organic exchanges while the breakout rooms along the perimeter offer a more private environment for focused work and meetings.
The classroom spaces can be repurposed as larger meeting or collaboration rooms with moveable furniture giving freedom and flexibility to users. Distinct geometry is used to guide users through the spaces, pausing at highlighted features that offer insights into Humber’s identity.
We created a space that is prepared for the evolving future of graduate level education. A space that values and encourages flexibility, skill-sharing, collaboration, and innovation. Humber has established itself as a global leader in polytechnic education and the IGS reflects their dedication to attracting international talent to Toronto.
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