Creating an academic design, for students, by students

Mohawk College Students’ Association

Year Completed

2011 - 2015


Mohawk College Students’ Association


Hamilton, Ontario




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Reimagining a home on campus

Mohawk College’s Fennell campus was built in 1968 on the former site of the Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital located on the Hamilton Mountain. Traces of it’s past use can be found throughout the property, but none more evident than in the Mohawk Students’ Association (MSA) pub, The Cellar. The former root cellar was used to store food and materials for the hospital and has been a central component of the MSA since it was discovered during initial construction in 1968.

Over the decades, the MSA has evolved, growing with the expanding student body to include The Arnie, Alumni Hall, study and collaboration rooms, and a cafeteria corridor. Since 2011, Kasian has been working with the MSA to design and reimagine the various spaces within their home on campus to create a cohesive identity that reflects both the long history of the site and the future growth of the College.



Ensuring all student voices are heard and considered

We knew the student identity needed to be reflected in the design. We saw this challenge as an opportunity to create a meaningful engagement strategy that brought the collaborative nature of our relationship with the MSA to the forefront.

We worked with a student team to structure the schedule of our implementation plan for each project. We had to gain an understanding of how students use their campus throughout the year to strategically work around low activity periods. We also had to manage the individual projects while the remainder of the building stayed active.


Involving the students in the design process was very rewarding. They helped transform the cellar interiors from a dark oppressive space into a dynamic and energetic student lounge.”

James Rice




Creating an open forum of engagement

We held workshop sessions with students, offering an open forum for idea exchange and the development of a shared vision. Students were able to inform us on what they wanted the future of their space to be. We combined their aspirations for the future with our historical analysis of the space and the property to ensure our design was reflective of its context.



Collaborating directly with talented students

Our first project was the renovation of The Arnie, a restaurant and live band venue within the MSA building, where we partnered with the faculty of Building and Construction Sciences to initiate a design competition open to students in their Architectural Technology diploma program. We ran a design competition and worked with the winning team to refine their scheme through to construction. We wanted The Arnie to reflect its users so collaborating directly with students was a perfect opportunity to ensure it felt like their space. Our next project, the renovation of the Cellar included highlighting the original brick archways, finished with murals designed and produced by students from the Graphic Design Faculty.


Involving the students in the design process was a truly unique experience. Together we created a space our students are proud to call home.”

Richard Anderson

Former Executive Director, Mohawk Student Association



Building a lasting relationship

Our relationship with the MSA began with a single project and evolved to reimagining their home on the Fennell campus. Four separate projects followed, all contributing to the successful creation of a space that is reflective of the student body.

With the Cellar, we took a historically significant building and highlighted its unique features to create a distinct student amenity space. We were instrumental in coordinating with the City of Hamilton and their historical preservation department from the earliest stages of the project to ensure an efficient permitting process. The Arnie is a successful product of student engagement and inclusion in the design process. We used the guiding principles of the student body to inform the design and execute the project delivery.

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