The ways buildings are constructed has to change. It has become something else instead, something more sustainable, something newer. And it doesn’t get much more modern than buildings that can actually move and adapt at will.

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A trapezoid shaped school building

Using a unique twisted design and geometric shapes, architects Perkins&Will created the design for Toronto’s York University. The School of Continuing Studies building has five floors and every one of them rotates to provide shading for the common areas below. The curtain wall is plated with reflective, brushed aluminum panels. This doesn’t hamper views, but it does reduce energy use. Low-carbon concrete was used to make up the structural core of the building.

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An interior walkway area with a person leaning on the doorway

Moreover, the buildings has classrooms and areas for collaboration. It has private spaces for nursing mothers, a prayer room, a dining area with kitchen appliances and a yoga room. This building is not designed for the typical 20-something college student because there is no such thing as a typical college student. This facility is for other types of students. That includes those with young children, older students and newcomers to Canada.

A table facing a window with a person sitting on one of the many orange chairs

Additionally, you can see right away that this is a different sort of construction. It’s not a normal box sitting on the ground. It’s an artistic, beautiful place. This is the largest continuing studies school of its kind in all of Canada.

“Through our design we wanted the School of Continuing Studies to achieve a rich identity, build community and create a culture of connectivity, both internally and externally,” said Safdar Abidi, higher education leader and Perkins&Will principal. “Our goal was to set a new benchmark nationwide, demonstrating how institutions can leverage the power of design to respond to its evolving landscape.”

An open hallway with tables and seating where people are milling about

Direct outdoor air ventilation and active chilled beams were integrated into the design. The building has 120,000 square feet of space and inside, it’s full of natural light. The twisted form of the building catches a lot of rays to illuminate the interior.

Lastly, the learning areas are made in a modular design in little clusters that can be reconfigured as needed. This building can adapt and change, like the natural world itself. This building shows that design, architecture and construction are not restricted to square shapes. Now, much more outside-the-box designs are needed.

+ Perkins&Will

Images via Doublespace Photography (ext.) and Tom Arban Photography (int.)