Ontario Hall by Tillmann Ruth Robinson opens at Western University
With the completion of the 1,000-bed Ontario Hall Residence, Western University guarantees accommodation to every first-year student. “I think all first-year students benefit greatly from being in residence” says Susan Grindrod, Associate Vice President, Housing & Ancillary Services. More than a home away from home, Ontario Hall helps build the social and academic connections that foster active learning, collaboration and belonging that are essential to the Western Student Experience.
Western puts the students first. The University understands that in the competitive bid for students, future prospects are pursuing more than an education. To meet new expectations, Ontario Hall is a culinary-focused, dining destination of choice with micro-environments for students to eat and gather. Attractors such as fitness, music and media rooms provide the kind of spaces where both quiet study, as well as unplanned intersection of disciplines can be the genesis of innovation and creativity. Learning can take place at any moment, and with each personal encounter. Classrooms and bookable meeting spaces meet the needs of study and social groupings. Students can choose between studying and simply hanging around in the large lounge on the ground floor, or in smaller common lounges on each residential floor.
Guided by evidence-based design principles, Ontario Hall’s interiors embrace safe, comfortable and low-stress environments. Spaces are dynamic, animated and bright. Naturally lit views across shared spaces invite participation, emphasizing the importance of shared student community assets. A palette of warm, high-touch natural finishes are used throughout all student areas; from the individual student lounges on each floor to the two main floors with student services, dining and program areas. Carefully framed views to the surrounding landscaped gardens also encourage students to linger.
Although contemporary in design, Ontario Hall reinforces Western’s much-loved vertical collegiate gothic expression. The building’s façade is clad with brick, cut stone, and wood that together, express a series of elegant bays. The slope of the site has had a significant influence on the building’s massing and form. By building into this slope to the north of the site, the streetscape along Sarnia Road appears as a 4-storey structure, reducing the overall massing and making it more sympathetic to the surrounding context. Floor-to-ceiling glass at the lounges and study areas welcomes natural light through four staggered glass lounges along Sarnia Road, the windows onto the “always on” life at Western. As the site slopes down to the south, two additional floors can be accommodated in each of the three residential wings. In between the wings are multi-level terraces, soft landscaped recreation areas, and semi-formal seating and performance spaces establishing different settings around the building.
Sustainable building initiatives are part of Western’s strategy towards maintaining top ranked status in the Globe and Mail University Report Card, a student guide to choosing a post-secondary educational institution. Both sustainability goals and a short construction window influenced the selection of materials and systems. For the regular structure of the residential wings, the design team opted for poured concrete slabs supported by concrete columns and shear walls. Structural steel was selected for use in the more geometrically dynamic central hub. Key to obtaining LEED Silver certification are sustainable elements such as: on-site stormwater collection and treatment; comprehensive green housekeeping and green building education plans; irrigation sourced from a rainwater catchment system; electric vehicle charging stations promoting new transportation technologies; Energy Star® cooking and food storage equipment in kitchens; and strategies encouraging alternative transportation.