Centennial College Athletic and Wellness Centre

PROJECT Centennial College Athletic and Wellness Centre, Toronto, Ontario
ARCHITECT Kongats Architects
PHOTOS Doublespace Photography unless otherwise noted 

Bordered by parking lots and Highway 401 to the north, the site of the Centennial College Athletic and Wellness Centre is adjacent to a playing field and protected ravine conservation area to the east, existing academic buildings and an underused landscaped space to the south, and the existing Student Centre to the west.

A challenging design brief from the Centennial College Student Association called for the existing double gymnasium facility to be renovated and expanded to create a central athletic facility for Centennial College. The new athletic facility was to accommodate multiple programs–both athletic and academic–as well as provide the venue for the College’s yearly convocation ceremonies and the student association’s concerts and events. Added to the project scope was the redesign of the interstitial campus grounds to create the Centennial College Alumni Courtyard. 

The existing building’s skin was removed and a new bespoke curtain wall and precast concrete enclosure was added to the expanded building. The building skin took cues from the strength, repetition and persistence of the colonnades of the Greek and Roman gymnasia as a physical embodiment of athletic activity within a historical dialogue. Careful attention was paid to the placement of opaque, transparent and distorted transparent elements of the façade to create a diversity of views and lighting effects. 

Landscaping on the campus consisted of a series of pathways connecting building access points across a sparsely planted lawn. Foot traffic was evidently not limited to the paved pathways and had caused widespread deterioration of the vegetated landscaping. The design initiative was to create a new continuous surface which would provide a durable and accessible connection between the campus buildings and useful places for gathering and reflection for the College community. Several paving options were investigated, and pervious concrete, a relatively new material, was selected and developed with Lafarge Cement and the Ready Mixed Concrete Association of Ontario for its economic and sustainable benefits. The Alumni Courtyard was further enhanced with native-, drought- and salt-resistant planting and a series of custom luminaires which can be used as benches, guide rails, workstations or bike racks.

The first floor houses recreational and varsity gyms (which also double as event and convocation venues), a climbing wall, sports injury clinic, squash courts, meeting rooms, offices and change facilities. The second floor houses the fitness area, a two-lane indoor running track, and two dance/aerobic/yoga studios. In conjunction with Centennial College’s spa program, a learning treatment centre will be outfitted to accommodate hydrotherapy, aesthetics and massage. 

The project’s sustainable design initiatives include: solar heating for domestic water, rainwater recycling for water closets, off-peak ice-making for cooling, high-efficiency condensing boilers, heat recovery, enhanced thermal insulation, radiant in-slab heating, triple glazing with solar-absorbing film, daylight-monitoring light sensors, LED exterior lighting, durable and low-VOC materials, and recycled building materials including the reuse of the existing gym’s wood floors as wall panels for the redeveloped gym. 

Jury Of the award winners, this project is singular in developing an architecture of enclosure, by way of an innovative glass and concrete envelope. It brings a minimal and elegant resolution to both the fitness facility inside and the grounds outside. The façade’s curved glass surface generates unique perceptual effects and magnifies the transformations in ambient light and atmosphere. Its articulation replays classical principles of a heavy base, column-like elements, and crown. CA

Client Centennial College Student Association Inc. | Architect Team Alar Kongats, Adam Trotter, Amie Lee, Jasmine Maggs, Derek McCallum, Eric Van Ziffle, Sukie Leung | Structural Read Jones Christoffersen | Mechanical/Electrical Crossey Engineering Ltd. | Civil Marshall Macklin Monaghan | Geotechnical AMEC Earth and Environmental | Acoustics HGC Engineering | Costing A.W. Hooker Associates Ltd. | Landscape Ryan James | Contractor buttcon | Area 5,600 m2 | Budget $22 M | Completion September 2012