Fit for a King’s: Western affiliate opens new student life centre

After six years of planning, meeting and fundraising – and one extra day waiting out inclement weather – King’s University College opened the doors to its multi-million dollar student life centre to the praise of students, staff and faculty.

“It’s better than any of us ever imagined,” said David Sylvester, King’s principal. “What was overdue here was the kind of gathering space that makes an undergraduate experience meaningful, where students are connecting with other students, and other faculty. It’s the space where real education blossoms, designed to be the kind of place that filled the spaces between classes.

“At King’s, we value the whole educational experience. I often talk to people and tell them we don’t teach math, history or philosophy; we teach students. This new space is crucial to the kind of education we provide, which is asking people to think and grow in all ways. What we’re doing is bringing the centre of student life into the heart of campus.”

From a fitness centre and games room to a lounge area with a fireplace and a 490-seat theatre, the $14.7-million Darryl J. King Student Life Centre will surely become a ‘community hub’ for students, staff and faculty to meet, socialize and learn, Sylvester added. It will also be open 24/7.

The centre was scheduled to open Tuesday, however King’s cancelled classes that day due to dangerous wind chill temperatures. The event was held Wednesday afternoon.

Students were involved right from the beginning – a key component to the building’s success. Sylvester said they will now reap the rewards of all their hard work and effort. The centre is located beside the library, connected by a one-storey learning common space.

“It’s been exciting to tour the building to see the ongoing progress, but I can’t wait to see it alive with all the students enjoying it,” he said. “It’s not just going to be a place where you can park yourself, but it’s designed to bring the culture of the community together. We want it to be a beehive of activity.”

Designed by Perkins+Will, in partnership with Cornerstone Architecture, and built by K & L Construction, the two-storey, 38,000-square-foot multi-purpose centre incorporates a variety of spaces created to serve students. These spaces include multiple meeting rooms, a café, learning lounge areas, auditorium, fitness centre, games room and multiple classrooms.

The centre is named in recognition of a donation from King’s alumnus Darryl J. King, BA’97 (History), who credits his experience at King’s for, not only his professional success, but for developing his philanthropic outlook and belief in giving back to the community. King said the college has a unique style that looks beyond the grades to consider the person and circumstance.

Sylvester said King met early on with student council, spoke to them about the need for such a centre even before any such plans were drawn up, and stepped up to the plate.

“Usually, people wait for the train to leave the station before getting involved. So I have the greatest respect for Darryl because he stepped up early and inspired a lot of people,” said Sylvester, noting King’s stepdaughter is currently a student at King’s. “I honestly don’t think this building would have been built without his early leadership.

“He has been a tremendous supporter of King’s for all the right reasons. I can’t say enough about his leadership.”

The King Centre is also pursuing a LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Silver certification, with many sustainable features to promote sustainability, including water and energy conservation initiatives, a green roof, accessibility and sustainable transportation, campus-wide recycling program, green cleaning and the selection of low-emitting products and materials.

This would be King’s first LEED building. Western’s current LEED buildings include the Claudette MacKay-Lassonde Pavilion (Gold) and McIntosh Gallery (Silver).

Sylvester said he anticipates one ‘problem’ with the new centre down the road.

“You need to know that the student council president of King’s probably has the nicest office space in London, Ont.,” he laughed. “Nicer than the principal of King’s, nicer than the deans. Our problem is going to be trying to kick the students out at the end of their term.”

Sylvester recalls a space study done at King’s, prior to his arrival in 2009, that stated the campus was poorly designed because people kept bumping into each other.

“When I read that I said, ‘This is great,’” he said. “We’re a community-centred campus, not spread out over hundreds of acres, and the fact that people were running into each other on a daily basis really contributed something to being at King’s.

“This new centre is the ultimate place for bumping into people. Not only students, but faculty and staff can stop by and see who’s hanging out, and that in and of itself is another contribution to building the community on campus.”

Kings3Paul Mayne, Western News
It didn’t take long for King’s University College student Dayam Jawaid to locate the games room in the new Darryl J. King Student Life Centre and play the first game of pool.