After overwhelmingly voting in favor of a second campus building devoted solely to student space, students at Toronto’s York University have welcomed a new student center with an inspiring emphasis on inclusivity and sustainability. Designed by global architecture firm CannonDesign, the student center was created not only as a hub of student life but to also improve mental health by creating a welcoming and safe space for students of all backgrounds.

students walking on path outside large glass building

Centrally located at the north end of a major campus green space, the new student center is easily accessible to the university’s 50,000 students. The architects took cues from safety design principles to create a building with an abundance of natural light and maximized sight lines. The high-performance glazing that wraps around the building gives the student center a level of transparency reflective of its objective to be open and welcoming to all.

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pendant lights over a wood staircase
student looking out tall glass windows

In addition to serving as a “living room” for student life, the 126,000-square-foot student center also includes a large multi-faith prayer space on the top floor; a food pantry on the lower level to serve students facing food insecurity; a wellness clinic that provides mental health counseling recommendations and more; bustling club spaces; and gender-neutral bathrooms. As part of the school’s commitment to sustainability, the new building also features bicycle parking, showers, green roofs and extensive use of natural lighting to minimize energy use.

people sitting near gray wall that reads, "York University Student Centre"
aerial view of glass building with green roofs

“This project excels at creating a campus destination where all students can feel welcome, safe, engaged and motivated to excel,” said Brad Lukanic, CEO of CannonDesign and a member of the York U Student Centre project team. “York University made an inclusive design part of this project’s mission from day one. The Second Student Centre stands as a paragon of how design can make measurable positive differences in both campus culture and students’ lives.”

+ CannonDesign

Photography by Tom Arban, Connie Tsang and Lisa Logan via CannonDesign