Members of the university community got their first official look at preliminary plans for Western’s newest forthcoming building earlier this month.
At town hall meetings held for the Faculty of Information and Media Studies (FIMS) and Faculty of Health Sciences, architects from the London firm Tillman Ruth Robinson presented their plans for the building, which will be the new home of FIMS and the Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing.
The four-storey building will occupy 130,000 square feet at the corner of Lambton and Huron drives, next to the Arthur and Sonia Labatt Health Sciences Building. Natural light and lots of sitting room were priorities for the design of the building, the architects said. The building has been designed so much of the interior light will come from large windows, and passersby will be able to look in to see the activity inside in the building’s many common spaces.
About 85 existing parking spaces in the lot next to the Health Sciences building will be lost due to the building’s two-acre footprint.
“From the survey we did, the demand and call for this kind of common space – breakout space, loungy informal space – was about 50 per cent, showing up in people’s responses of what’s missing,” Tom Robinson, principal at Tillman Ruth Robinson, said after the FIMS meeting. “I think what we’ve got cooking here is a pretty dynamic building that is going to be very animated from the outside.”
FIMS and Nursing will each occupy separate wings of the building. The structure will be vaguely V-shaped with a courtyard in front and a ‘green roof,’ meaning the roof will be at least partially covered with plants.
Currently housed in the Health Sciences Addition, Nursing’s new home will bring it closer to its home faculty, Health Sciences, and allow the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry to expand in the Health Science Addition, built in 1975.
“Obviously, we’re really happy with the new building, ecstatic actually,” said Mary Ann Andrusyszyn, School of Nursing director. “The building is designed in such a creative way – especially from a physical space standpoint. It’ll be really good profiling for both Nursing and FIMS.”
At the town hall, Nursing community members raised issues about a link to the Health Sciences building, which has not been determined, as well as no plans for food service in the building yet. But reception was more than positive when it came to the overall facility.
Andrusyszyn credited the process – and especially the architects – for their willingness to listen during the design process.
“They are making us feel special,” she said, “which is great, because this is going to be a special building.”
Currently housed in the North Campus Building, FIMS is packed into both tight and scattered quarters. The new facility will bring the faculty together in a number of ways. Constructed in 2004, the North Campus Building also houses the Faculty of Science as well as general use classroom space.
Though FIMS has been planning to move from its current home for some time, this new building was not always part of that plan. Originally, FIMS was expected to move to the Ivey HBA Building near University College, which was occupied by the Ivey Business School, until they moved into the new Richard Ivey Building last fall. But those plans were cancelled in October.
“The saga of our faculty’s search for a satisfactory building, a home on campus, has been a long, winding and tortuous one, proceeding over many years,” acting FIMS dean Nick Dyer-Witheford said. “I am happy to say that the new project has, in my view, moved forward in a very positive spirit.”
The decision to start from scratch was made when the university realized it was more cost-effective to build a new structure than to complete the move to the HBA building, said Gitta Kulczycki, Western’s vice-president resources and operations. Moving FIMS and Nursing to HBA building would have required “significant renovations,” she said.
FIMS faculty and staff in attendance were worried about the quality of working conditions in the new building, pointing to past issues with thermostat controls in particular. But the architects said it is still too early in the design phase to offer concrete details on ventilation issues.
Kulczycki said the new building should be regarded as a positive opportunity for FIMS and Nursing, and that some of the work that went into planning the original move could still be used.
“There was a great deal of work done, no doubt, by their space planning committee, but also by our facilities engineering group, and others,” she said. “The good news side of all of that is that that’s portable work. … It’s not like all the work they had been doing is for naught.”
The new building is expected to be ready by January 2017.
Jason Winders contributed to this report.