The Ryerson campus revitalization project, which has taken over Nelson Mandela Walk and Gould and Victoria streets, is only the start of campus transformations to come in the near future.
The Ryerson University Library is in the early stages of a remodel and modernization of its own, starting with its entrance. At the heart of the project is a focus on Indigenization, which is shared by the university’s Campus Master Plan.
“The Library transformation project recognizes that the 1974 Library building needs a major and complete reimagining and renovation to be able to meet the emerging academic needs of our students and the scholarship, research and creative activities of both faculty and students,” chief librarian Carol Shepstone said.
A team of Ryerson librarians, staff and students, led by chief librarian Carol Shepstone, selected the Indigenous architectural firm Two Row Architects to conduct the preliminary feasibility study for the redesign.
Two Row is working alongside Gow Hastings Architects – a home to several Ryerson alumni, and previous collaborator for the firm on the 2018 opening of the Odeyto Indigenous Centre at Seneca College’s Newnham campus.
Following the feasibility study, a Library Transformation Master Plan will “reimagine the entire library,” according to Shepstone.
Riley Kucheran, an Ojibway PhD student and member of Ryerson’s Aboriginal Education Council, was part of the team that selected the design partnership. He said that with Two Row providing the “guiding vision” for the project, “Indigenous perspectives like holistic wellness will be well integrated.”
“Indigenous design is place-based,” Kucheran, who is also the Indigenous advisor to the Yeates School of Graduate Studies, told the Ryersonian. “It embraces the land instead of closing itself off. It invites people in rather than excludes, it’s equitable and non-hierarchical.”
Kucheran foresees the modernized – and Indigenized – library evolving into a space that is human-centred, accessible and open to the entire Ryerson community.
These traits are especially important given the Library building’s close proximity to the Student Learning Centre (SLC), which is already dubbed “a library of the 21st century.”
“[The SLC] is an iconic building that has provided much needed and much loved student space on campus. It has really put Ryerson on the map in downtown Toronto,” Shepstone said. “But all great universities have, and deserve, great libraries.”
“I think that Two Row was hoping that the two buildings complement each other,” Kucheran said. “The SLC opens itself onto Yonge and they are hoping that the library redesign does the same to the Gould and Victoria intersection.”
Going forward, Kucheran also hopes the library’s redesign inspires more “diverse” campus planning.
“I want the redesign to set a precedent for respectful engagement with a diversity of communities impacted by the spaces, and also the spaces itself,” he said. “As Ryerson grows – and I’m thinking about the new science building at 202 Jarvis Street or other new buildings – I hope we take an Indigenous perspective on the design.”
Ryerson’s Facilities Management and Development team will be hosting Campus Master Plan pop-ups today, April 10. They will be in the 10 Dundas St. East building lobby from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., and the Student Campus Centre lobby from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Students, staff and faculty can provide their comments on how Ryerson buildings, including the library, can fit into the university’s larger vision of keeping up with dramatic urban growth in a bustling city like Toronto, while respecting all communities.
This follows an open consultation period held by the library last month.
“We gathered more than 1,200 feedback cards from students and community members, we held focus groups with faculty members, talking circles with Indigenous students, staff, faculty and community members, and had special stakeholder meetings with Accessibility, Security, CCS, Custodial and others,” Shepstone said.
“All of the sessions provided important ideas and considerations for the Library entrance preliminary feasibility study, and will feed into the whole Library Transformation Master Plan.”
Shepstone said the master plan will be underway in the next few months.