Sundials Spur Creative Design at Canadian Campus

By Eric Althoff

OSHAWA, Canada—Sundials have helped people tell the time of day for centuries, and now, inspired by that very concept, Montgomery Sisam Architects has designed a new building at Ontario Tech University that “revolves” around the idea of solar orientation.

Accordingly, the new General Academic and Student Building has been designed such that light plays off of the structure in unique ways throughout the day—throwing various shadows as the sun arcs across the sky. Montgomery Sisam utilized concrete cladding, whose four different types of shaped panels create what the firm calls a “playful” dance between shadow and light. It is also meant to evoke the dichotomy of mass and weightlessness considering that solid mass gives off a non-physical shade.

“Architecturally, this building is quite interesting. For the design, we were very inspired by the idea of creating a physical manifestation of a sundial,” Daniel Ling, principal architect with Montgomery Sisam Architects, said to School Construction News. “To develop this unique design intent, we studied how the sun travels throughout the building. We then turned to shaped concrete panels…so the perspective shifts and changes as the solar orientation does throughout the course of the day.”

The 80,000-square-foot building will offer classrooms as well as administrative and social spaces, with the latest technological innovations offered throughout the facility. The architect’s plans ensure that a decent amount of natural light would enter into the building.

Levels 1 and 2 will be home to the student union, lounge and study spaces—all of which are arranged around an open atrium so as to encourage interaction. A staircase allows these areas to be connected seamlessly to the lower-level conference center and student club area. Levels 3, 4 and 5 are designed to be more private as they host classrooms, administration offices and various other functions that require less intrusive noises.

“We also focused on creating spaces where students could come together, whether that is gravitating towards the building from other spaces on campus, or through the connectedness that the interior space was designed to foster,” Ling added. “Spatially, this is reflected in that the lower level connects with the multi-story space that enables light to travel easily throughout the entire building. Distinct yet complementary materials—concrete, metal, wood, and stone—also offer a unique expression and tactile quality that is at the same time sympathetic to the existing campus fabric.”

Montgomery Sisam, based in Toronto, worked in joint venture with Architecture Counsel, and on the design-build contract with general contractor Eastern Construction, whose home offices are located in Scarborough, Ontario.

“Ultimately, we hope the new General Academic and Student Building at the Ontario Tech University space can act as a center of gravity for student life on campus,” concluded Ling.