Gow Hastings Architects shortlisted for AJ Retrofit Awards

Toronto-based Gow Hastings Architects has been shortlisted for the 2013 Architects’ Journal Retrofit Awards in the “Higher Education” category for the design of the Humber College Centre for Justice Leadership in Etobicoke, Ontario. The awards ceremony will be happening on September 11, 2013 at The Brewery in London, England.

Dedicated to the teaching of forensic science, Humber College’s Centre for Justice Leadership enables students to learn the art of fingerprint dusting and other investigation techniques including shoe and tire impressions in a state-of-the-art forensics lab. The new lab will allow students to learn identification techniques using polygraph technology, criminal profiling and photography. In this first-of-its-kind facility, students can study crime scenes and hone their investigative skills in the facility’s unique tiered 45-seat theatre with a simulated one-bedroom apartment for re-enactment of crime scenes.

Breathing new life into a former car dealership, the school is a prime example of the college’s strategy of annexing neighbouring buildings to expand its lakeshore campus. The transformed structure offers versatile spaces perfectly conducive to programs, such as the Blood Spatter Interpretation course and the three-year Police Foundation program. What was once the dealership’s service area is now a crime scene investigation lab and the former showroom has been converted into classrooms, used for regular classes as well as mock trials. The various ceiling heights inside the facility pinch and expand the space to great effect, further disguising the dealership, while creating the impression of spaciousness and also concealing the sources for atmospheric lighting.

The original façade of the dealership is now shrouded behind a translucent aluminum screen, providing dynamic shapes to the building’s exterior. A green living wall cascades down the facade and is visible through large fissures in the screen. Inspired by the nature of the centre’s activities, the new façade gives the building a simultaneously alluring and discreet appearance. Aside from its aesthetic appeal, the aluminum screen also serves to soften the bright light that previously permeated the structure through the large showroom windows. The vertical garden provides a lush, natural contrast to the sharp sculptural shape of the screen and to the street’s harsh paving. After dark, the large LED sign projecting Humber’s wordmark radiates an ambient glow from behind the screen – providing both drama and safety to the surrounding area.

For more information and to view the 2013 AJ Retrofit Awards shortlist, please visit www.retrofitawards.com/748642.