Rejuvenating Enterprise Square at University of Alberta’s downtown campus

University of Alberta

Year Completed

2021

Client

University of Alberta

Location

Edmonton, AB

Size

20,000 SF

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Futureproofing University of Alberta’s downtown campus with a modern, academic workplace design

The University of Alberta’s (U of A) downtown campus is located on Jasper Avenue in Edmonton. It’s a connection point between the city and the university’s main campus. Residing in what was once the historic Hudson Bay building, the campus, known as Enterprise Square, houses staff offices, continuing education programs, and community spaces in the heart of the city.

To evolve the growing university, the U of A sought to optimize space and create more efficient and inspiring offices for their staff, as well as a new gathering place for the downtown campus. Enterprise Square’s main floor was the perfect place to begin their strategic plan, and to revitalize this significant property. We were commissioned by U of A to renovate the interiors and create a connected and collaborative academic workplace design for staff and guests.

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Navigating timelines and strained supply chains through the pandemic

Our goal was to make this portion of campus an attractive and inviting academic workplace design. The space needed to attract staff and guests downtown and offer a special environment for those working away from the main campus. This project occurred in the middle of the pandemic and in a very tight timeline. Strained supply chains, social distancing, along with product pricing and sourcing issues added extra pressure for our design team who were tasked to complete the project on time and on budget despite the outside challenges.

Additionally, at the time of design, the university hadn’t yet determined which departments would occupy the space, and our objective was to develop a generic planning strategy that would successfully accommodate any department that may come and go over time.

This space is somewhere I want to spend time. I know when students and staff see what it has become, they will feel the same sense of comfort and inspiration as I do”

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Dean Benvenuto

Principal

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Working together to create an environment that enhances collaboration and togetherness

We worked directly with the university project management teams and design directors, who provided design guidelines, and held regular design meetings with the university staff.

Our design was driven by our desire to create a welcoming and attractive space for staff. Unique in its energy, Enterprise Square had to still feel closely connected to the main campus.

We worked closely with construction management team to ensure we successfully completed each challenge, meeting the fast-paced timeline and tight budget. We chose practical, Canadian-sourced materials where possible, which helped smooth out the construction duration. Employees were scheduled to move in by September, which gave us three months to complete our design before construction began.

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Creating a collaborative opportunity for community

Enterprise square is a vibrant source of community in the heart of Edmonton. At the centre of the atrium is a large triangular common area where staff can gather, eat lunch, and collaborate. Acting as a parallel version of main campus’ HUB Mall, with flexible seating, tables, benches, and booths that adapt and inspire users to support each other. Living biophilic elements like moss tiles, planters, and vertical wood panels surround the space, absorbing acoustics and warmly enveloping users, establishing a calm, warm, and welcoming space.

To offer consistency, we applied U of A’s classic green and gold colour scheme throughout this downtown space. In the office zones, we worked to eliminate ‘cubical oceans’ and increase collaborative creativity, by introducing ceiling clouds and workstation neighbourhoods with central gathering areas. A large, angled, wooden ceiling cloud in the main entrance adds a mellow ambiance and mimics the streetscape to emphasize instinctual wayfinding.

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Leaving a lasting mark on university culture

Now a gem in U of A’s downtown campus, this beautiful new space supports their strategic plan to advance education and nurture 250 staff.

Now home to hundreds of U of A staff, the downtown campus has taken on a whole new energy. As downtown Edmonton recovers from the pandemic, Enterprise Square provides a new place for community and intellectual co-creation.

This project will strengthen the University’s mark in downtown Edmonton and will encourage students and staff to come together, to socialize, collaborate, learn and work in a space that inspires them, for decades to come.

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