When Red River College’s (RRC) Innovation Centre opens in 2021, it will be the first of its kind in Western Canada and known for its innovation inside and out.
It will welcome another 1,200 students and house RRC’s business and information technology programs, Language Training Centre, ACE (Applied Computer Education) project space, research partnerships, as well as its Innovation Office.
For the designers behind the building’s aesthetic, Toronto’s Diamond Schmitt Architects and Winnipeg’s Number Ten Architectural Group, the space had to live up to and surpass expectations. Thinking innovatively was at the core of their inspiration.
“What is an innovation centre?” asked Diamond Schmitt’s Principal, Michael Leckman at a recent RRC webinar discussing what drove the design. “It’s a state-of-the-art learning space that places people at the centre, filled with light; a place that is technology-enriched but it’s a place for knowledge exchange and collaboration, and it invites innovation.”
The design team worked closely with RRC’s project team, which took the lead on continuity to ensure the college’s academic and training needs could be met by the space.
The atrium at the centre of the design, based on the agoras of ancient Greece, is expected to do just that—flood the building with a massive amount of light that flows into adaptable classrooms, collaboration spaces, student services and a 210-person roundhouse auditorium. These spaces will be on either side of the atrium and it rises up four levels of the building. An overhead walkway will link this new building to the existing Roblin Centre.”
Sustainability was also another major consideration.
“In order to offset energy use, we needed to create energy with on-site electricity, which needed to be a big part of this story,” said Number Ten Architectural Group Principal and Partner, Doug Hanna.
And, what a story it is becoming.
This past summer, the roof of the 100,000 sq. ft. building went up and Hanna says the designers wanted to take advantage of every surface to create energy.
“Rooftop Photovoltaics (PV) panels were oriented and tilted, carefully analyzed and instilled to optimize energy production,” added Hanna.
Taking a page from nature and the Morpho Butterfly, which has bright blue iridescent wings that shift in colour when in flight, designers turned to Swiss company, Kromatix. It came up with a way to mimic the insect’s ability to change colour subtly as light hits it. The college chose a bronze-gold colour to complement the historic buildings that surround the Innovation Centre.
The PV panels on the south-facing wall of the centre will create and conserve energy while repelling the weather. Combined with the panels on the roof it will offset 18 per cent of the building’s energy use.
“We’re proud to have worked with Diamond Schmitt and Number TEN on a design that encourages collaboration, flexibility and creativity for our students, staff and community members. The space reflects RRC’s vision for a new style of training that focuses on incorporating power skills and technical skills into hands-on training and brings students from different programs together to work on real-world projects with local businesses. I’m excited to see it open next year,” said Kirk Johnson, Dean, School of Business, IT and Creative Arts at RRC.
The college also worked with Indigenous artist, Jackie Traverse, to create an extensive art piece across 1,100 sq. ft. of the building. The piece is inspired by The Forks, where the Red River and Assiniboine Rivers meet. It will incorporate the 13 moons (which could be interpreted as rocks to represent the Grandfathers), people, bear paws, and the Oodena Celebration Circle.
The location of the $95-million Innovation Centre on Elgin Avenue will also allow for creative collisions between students, educators and tech companies that are already in the Exchange District, like Ubisoft and Tangent Animation.