Con­estoga Col­lege’s North Cam­pus in Water­loo ex­pands while pre­serv­ing the el­e­ments of the past


Lau­rel Vo­ca­tional School caused quite a stir when it opened on Univer­sity Av­enue in Water­loo back in 1968. Fifty years later, the build­ing, now Con­estoga Col­lege’s North Cam­pus, is again gen­er­at­ing a buzz, this time be­cause of its modern “wow” fac­tors and the seam­less in­cor­po­ra­tion of some key el­e­ments of the late John Ling­wood’s orig­i­nal de­sign.

Un­like many new build­ings that seem to turn in­ward, closed to passers-by, Con­estoga’s bold, bright North Cam­pus re­veals its in­te­rior for the world to see.

The grey-tinted glass curtain shell con­structed around the orig­i­nal build­ing adds 150,000 square feet of us­able space. The higher roof de­signed for so­lar pan­els is an­other 21st-cen­tury fea­ture. Yet lead ar­chi­tect Daniel Ter­a­mura also pre­served fea­tures from a half-cen­tury ago: the ex­pan­sive glass en­trance to an in­door court­yard and, over­head, nine of the 15 pre­cast con­crete win­dow sur­rounds.

When they set about to en­large the school, which it pur­chased from the Water­loo Re­gion District School Board, col­lege ad­min­is­tra­tors were un­aware the en­trance and win­dows were sig­nif­i­cant ar­chi­tec­tural fea­tures of their day, Con­estoga pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer John Tib­bits said in an in­ter­view.

In­deed, an early con­cept draw­ing of the pro­posed build­ing, pre­pared for fundrais­ing pur­poses, did not in­clude the cen­tral en­trance block that is now such an eye-catch­ing fea­ture.

How­ever, by com­mis­sion­ing the Toronto ar­chi­tec­tural firm of Moriyama

& Teshima to de­sign a new build­ing, Con­estoga put its North Cam­pus project in the hands of a team ex­pe­ri­enced in re­fur­bish­ing and ex­pand­ing older build­ings, in­clud­ing some with des­ig­nated her­itage fea­tures.

Sim­ply re­plac­ing the build­ing was an op­tion, says Ter­a­mura, a part­ner in the firm whose back­ground in­cludes seven years on the City of Toronto’s Preser­va­tion Panel.

How­ever, “our start­ing point is that you can some­times strengthen and get some­thing more in­ter­est­ing if you pre­serve some fea­tures of the orig­i­nal build­ing,” Ter­a­mura says. “When we got in­volved and looked at the orig­i­nal build­ing, we thought it had real pres­ence and strong ar­chi­tec­tural bones. It was also in very good con­di­tion.”

One per­son who worried about the im­pact an ex­pan­sion might have on the old school was Rick Haldenby of Kitch­ener, the former long­time di­rec­tor of Univer­sity of Water­loo’s School of Architecture.

“Ling­wood used very deep win­dow cas­ings to em­u­late a tra­di­tional colon­nade, even if, in a thor­oughly modern fash­ion, he had the en­tire fa­cade vis­ually float­ing above a void,” Haldenby ex­plains. “It is

an in­ter­est­ing piece of de­sign and one that I am very happy the ar­chi­tect was able to save and in­cor­po­rate in the ren­o­vated build­ing. I have al­ways thought the cen­tral sec­tion . . . was the most sig­nif­i­cant as­pect of the de­sign, not just the win­dows, but the por­tico un­der­neath the cen­tral sec­tion and the court­yard in be­hind.”

In May, Haldenby in­cluded the Con­estoga ex­pan­sion in an ar­ti­cle and a pa­per he pre­sented to an On­tario As­so­ci­a­tion of Ar­chi­tects con­fer­ence in Toronto. His topic was six Post-War Modern build­ings that were re­cently, or are cur­rently be­ing ren­o­vated in “ap­pro­pri­ate and in­spir­ing ways so that a won­der­ful cul­tural and ma­te­rial re­source is not lost, de­faced or wasted com­pletely.”

Ter­a­mura ex­plains the look of the ex­panded build­ing this way: “The cen­tral por­tion is ef­fec­tively the front door; the new en­try court is an im­por­tant ori­en­ta­tion and stu­dent space and keeps good flow. It is very open and trans­par­ent. Peo­ple can see right through the build­ing.”

In­side the en­trance, there is a large stu­dent cafe­te­ria to the right. To the left is new kitchen space for Con­estoga’s ex­pand­ing Culi­nary and Hos­pi­tal­ity In­sti­tute classes.

There is also a larger, up­scale ver­sion of Blooms restau­rant, which is run by culi­nary stu­dents. Each se­mes­ter, Blooms is open to the pub­lic for three­and four-course meals, both lunch and din­ner, sev­eral days a week.

Ter­a­mura ex­pe­ri­enced first-hand Blooms’ pop­u­lar­ity when he tried to have lunch there dur­ing a site visit. Sorry, he was told. With­out a reser­va­tion, he was out of luck.

The ex­panse and vis­i­bil­ity of the glass en­trance, in­te­rior court­yard and the ac­tiv­ity be­yond makes the en­tire sec­tion im­por­tant pub­lic space, Ter­a­mura says, pre­dict­ing Blooms “will be­come even more of a des­ti­na­tion.”

In 1987, when Tib­bits be­came pres­i­dent of Con­estoga, the col­lege had 2,000 stu­dents. Its Water­loo cam­pus was 62,000 square feet of class­rooms on a six-acre King Street North site.

See­ing Water­loo as a log­i­cal city in which to ex­pand, Tib­bits tried un­suc­cess­fully to pur­chase land from the nearby Water­loo Inn.

He bided his time. Then, in the early 2000s, the pub­lic board listed the Univer­sity Av­enue build­ing, by then called Univer­sity Heights Sec­ondary School. Un­der pro­vin­cial reg­u­la­tions, other On­tario school boards get first dibs on avail­able schools. Even­tu­ally the door opened to an of­fer from the col­lege.

By buy­ing the 125,000-square-foot school, the col­lege not only dou­bled its teach­ing space in Water­loo, it gained the po­ten­tial to ex­pand on a high-vis­i­bil­ity 12-acre property.

Ini­tially, the teach­ing fo­cus at North Cam­pus was train­ing for the con­struc­tion trades, a small culi­nary and hos­pi­tal­ity pro­gram, and in­tro­duc­tory pro­grams for re­cent im­mi­grants.

But Con­estoga was grow­ing rapidly in en­rol­ment and pro­grams, and the former high school didn’t re­flect its evolution to a de­gree-grant­ing polytech­nic with a grow­ing num­ber of for­eign stu­dents. Ex­pan­sion plan­ning be­gan.

Re­de­vel­op­ment of the property was am­bi­tious in both scope and tim­ing.

In De­cem­ber 2016, with the an­nounce­ment of $14 mil­lion in fed­eral fund­ing, $1.8 mil­lion from the prov­ince and a re­main­ing $27.7 mil­lion from the col­lege and com­mu­nity, Con­estoga Col­lege un­veiled its North Cam­pus plans.

The fol­low­ing Oc­to­ber, Cowan Foun­da­tion be­came Con­estoga’s sin­gle largest donor of pri­vate funds with a gift of $4 mil­lion to­ward the ex­pan­sion.

The timeline was tight. Seven­teen months — that’s all Cam­bridge con­trac­tor Col­lab­o­ra­tive Struc­tures Ltd. (CSL) was given to trans­form the 1960s build­ing into a sleek new multi-use cam­pus.

Con­struc­tion started the third week of March 2017, with work to be com­pleted by Septem­ber 2018. Stu­dents at North

Cam­pus would con­tinue to at­tend their reg­u­lar classes while work went on around them.

In an in­ter­view, project man­ager Dan Di­et­rich, CSL’s man on the spot, out­lined some chal­lenges.

Hav­ing stu­dents on­site was one. Park­ing was an­other. Space was scarce for heavy con­struc­tion ve­hi­cles and han­dling of ma­te­ri­als could be awkward.

“We built a wall to sep­a­rate the stu­dent and staff ar­eas from the con­struc­tion,” Di­et­rich says. “Their safety wasn’t an is­sue, and be­cause the area was ex­empt from noise by­laws, we were able to get most of the noisy work done be­tween 6:30 and 9 a.m. Fore­most was main­tain­ing stu­dent safely.”

A five-week strike by teach­ers in late fall of 2017 “didn’t af­fect us a lot,” Di­et­rich says, un­like last au­tumn’s wet spell “which came at the wrong time when we were try­ing to put the roof on.” An un­usu­ally long, harsh win­ter fol­lowed.

If that weren’t enough, CSL took on ex­tra un­sched­uled work, com­plet­ing a pre­vi­ously un­fin­ished floor as well as other space in the build­ing that had been intended for fu­ture use. The ad­di­tional work, sched­uled once new en­rol­ment pro­jec­tions pointed to the space be­ing needed sooner than an­tic­i­pated, raised the to­tal cost of the ex­pan­sion to $58.2 mil­lion.

By Fe­bru­ary of this year, new kitchen equip­ment was ar­riv­ing. By March, while some jobs were be­hind sched­ule, oth­ers were ahead. It bal­anced out, and Di­et­rich felt con­fi­dent the sched­ule would be met.

Ma­te­ri­als used in the re­design in­clude the glossy glass curtain wall that loses heat at night and gains it back in sun­light. With ar­gon-filled dou­ble-pane glass and pro­tec­tive glaz­ing, it meets the cur­rent code for en­ergy ef­fi­ciency, Di­et­rich says. The so­lar pan­els are a part­ner­ship with Water­loo North Hy­dro.

All in all, Di­et­rich says, “it’s a sharplook­ing build­ing.”

Of course, in the aca­demic world, the last­ing im­pact of what hap­pens in class­rooms and labs is more im­por­tant than its build­ings.

Water­loo Re­gion’s rep­u­ta­tion as a tech­nol­ogy hot­bed makes North Cam­pus the ideal lo­ca­tion to ex­pand the col­lege’s com­puter sci­ence pro­grams and bring all those stu­dents un­der one roof. This fall, it in­tro­duced four new de­gree pro­grams.

An­other area of surg­ing growth is Con­estoga’s grad­u­ate cer­tifi­cate train­ing pro­grams, intended for univer­sity and col­lege grad­u­ates look­ing to the col­lege for up­dated, spe­cial­ized train­ing to sharpen and de­fine their skills. Classes are held in the evening to ac­com­mo­date work sched­ules, and as of this fall, 15 cer­tifi­cates in fields as di­verse as hu­man re­sources, en­vi­ron­men­tal con­trols and cy­ber se­cu­rity are of­fered.

The col­lege’s culi­nary, hos­pi­tal­ity and bev­er­age man­age­ment pro­gram was also due for an up­grade. At one time, when the

re­gion didn’t of­fer to­day’s range of so­phis­ti­cated din­ing op­tions, Con­estoga had 80 culi­nary stu­dents.

To­day, with high-end restau­rants in ev­ery part of the re­gion, a di­verse pop­u­la­tion, en­hanced re­search on the nu­tri­tional needs of dif­fer­ent age groups and a foodie cul­ture that con­sid­ers cook­ing a cool, chal­leng­ing pas­time, en­rol­ment in Con­estoga’s Culi­nary and Hos­pi­tal­ity Man­age­ment In­sti­tute is forecast to climb from the cur­rent 350 stu­dents to about 900 by 2023.

Course of­fer­ings in­clude culi­nary plan­ning, prepa­ra­tion and pre­sen­ta­tion in a va­ri­ety of food ser­vice en­vi­ron­ments. Stu­dents learn cost-con­trol and kitchen man­age­ment tech­niques as well as food safety reg­u­la­tions and pro­ce­dures.

A new re­search kitchen will of­fer op­por­tu­ni­ties for prod­uct de­vel­op­ment and test­ing. As for those leisure-time food­ies, there are new part-time and short cour­ses in cook­ing for plea­sure.

Culi­nary grads will still find ca­reers in hos­pi­tal­ity, Tib­bits says, but also in in­sti­tu­tional sec­tors serv­ing univer­sity stu­dents, long-term care pa­tients and as­sisted liv­ing com­mu­ni­ties.

An­other key fea­ture at North Cam­pus is a med­ley of ser­vices to help new­com­ers to Canada find suc­cess. Over the years, Con­estoga has trained al­most 10,000 im­mi­grants through its fed­er­ally fi­nanced Lan­guage In­struc­tion for New Cana­di­ans (LINC). Now, for the first time, in the new Ac­cess Hub, LINC will be of­fered along­side ca­reer coun­selling, job train­ing and jobfind­ing as­sis­tance, all un­der one roof. Some child care may be avail­able.

Ac­cess Hub ser­vices will ben­e­fit both stu­dents and em­ploy­ers, Tib­bits says. A va­ri­ety of prac­ti­cal short cour­ses will be of­fered with “a huge emphasis on help­ing the un­der-em­ployed.”

Tib­bits builds for the fu­ture and calls the re­vi­tal­ized North Cam­pus Phase 1 of Con­estoga’s Path­ways to Pros­per­ity ini­tia­tive.

In April, the On­tario gov­ern­ment an­nounced it will spend $90 mil­lion to launch a new 150-acre cam­pus in Mil­ton, near the Ni­a­gara Es­carp­ment, where Con­estoga Col­lege and Wil­frid Lau­rier Univer­sity will be part­ners in sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing, arts and math­e­mat­ics (STEAM) teach­ing. Fifty acres will be lo­cated in the pro­posed Mil­ton Ed­u­ca­tion Vil­lage, the other 100 acres will be pro­tected land for hands-on learn­ing in en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­ence.

Just like Con­estoga, Tib­bits, On­tario’s long­est-serv­ing col­lege pres­i­dent, is not done.

Artist’s draw­ings cour­tesy Moriyama & Teshima Ar­chi­tects


Con­struc­tion con­tin­ued through the sum­mer to com­plete the ex­pan­sion of Con­estoga Col­lege’s North Cam­pus, on Univer­sity Av­enue in Water­loo.

The orig­i­nal build­ing, then known asLau­rel Vo­ca­tional School, is shown on the evening of Dec. 9, 1968.Photo cour­tesy of Univer­sity of Water­loo Library. Spe­cial Col­lec­tions & Ar­chives. Per­sonal Stu­dio fonds.

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