The Learning Annex

Teeple Architects’ rapidly expanding portfolio of public projects comprises libraries, schools and university buildings, and the high-tech learning resource centre for Loyalist College represents the firm’s further finessing of its readily identifiable, if not predictable, architectural vocabulary for this type of project.

Situated approximately two hours east of Toronto just outside the city of Belleville, Loyalist College occupies a wooded 200-acre campus. Teeple’s addition addresses the awkward siting of the college’s existing Kente Building by creating a dynamic new faade oriented toward the main entrance to the campus off Wallbridge-Loyalist Road, and functions, in a sense, as a highly visible landmark and entrance pavilion for the college, not unlike the manner in which Teeple’s Welcome Centre for York University functions (see CA, April 2002). The previous college library occupied the rotunda in the heart of the Kente Building; this was renovated by the firm into a fully wired 24-hour computer commons and lecture hall, while all library facilities were shifted to the new building.

The addition of this learning resource centre/library provides an up-to-date facility for students to access both digital and print media equipment and tools. Traditional print material is kept in several rows of stacks, while clusters of computer workstations enable students to access information and perform tasks digitally. A circulation desk, workroom, offices, study spaces and a student lounge complete the program on the main floor. A barrier-free mezzanine level includes two student seminar rooms, fully wired study carrels and general spaces for reading or study that overlook the ground floor.

The highly expressive form of the resource centre takes on Teeple’s characteristic hyperangulation, the folding planes and points of the building adopting, at times, origami-like geometries. The soaring roof plane and entire wall of glazing form a light-filled and welcoming focal point for the campus that creates a previously and curiously absent unambiguous entrance to the complex.

An insistence on departing from the orthogonal in all axes results in highly dynamic forms conveying movement and surprise in both interior and exterior. The roof in the north-west corner swoops up to a sharply pointed rapier-like peak, the planes leading up to it defined by glittering panels of glass and zinc. Ample views of sky and a copse of trees are framed by the mullions on the expansive walls of glass. In a plan filled with a jumble of acute and obtuse angles, the north-east faade possesses a flattened sawtooth or ziggurat pattern wherein the concrete block walls form angled fins between which glass is inserted, offering additional views of the landscape. These glazed insertions take good advantage of ideal diffuse northern light to softly illuminate the assemblage of spaces within.

Teeple’s characteristically exuberant forms and sharply angular colliding planes are underscored by a varied material palette. In addition to typical curtain wall glazing and a zinc rainscreen wall system, the coloured precast concrete blocks specially designed by the firm predominate, chamfered to create an intriguing texture and intricate pattern of shadows, particularly on the large expanse of the building’s west elevation and as it wraps around the corner on the south faade to guide visitors into the entrance. The finely scaled elongated blocks measure 9cm * 9cm * 119cm. The eccentric chamfer occurs at just one corner of each block to form a triangular recess, and when assembled, lend a highly tactile and sculptural quality to the wall, an imaginative contextual response to the precast cladding of the original college buildings. The west wall also asserts itself graphically as architectural signage for Loyalist College; dark bands of zinc frame the textured concrete block and are punctuated with long horizontal strip windows.

This transformative intervention has given Loyalist College a completely new image in keeping with the 21st century, and has more than mitigated the concrete bunker of the Kente Building which recalls so many dark and uninspired prison-like educational buildings of decades past. Linking building and landscape together, the transparent openness of the resource centre welcomes students and visitors to the college, fuels imagination, and fulfills its promise as a place of enhanced learning.


Client: Loyalist College

Architect Team: Stephen Teeple, Paul Hammond, William Kuo, Matt Smith

Structural: Greer Galloway

Mechanical: Keen Engineering

Electrical: Smith and Anderson

Landscape: NAK

Contractor: Garitano

Area: 14,500 ft2

Budget: $6.0 million

Completion: August 2003

Photography: Tom Arban