Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence, York University - York, Ontario (Canada)

The Renaissance of engineering

Creativity begets creativity: this is the lesson to be learned from the Bergeron Centre in Toronto, winner of the Tile Competition 2018
Elena Pasoli
Double Space Photography
Paul Stevens, Carmine Canonaco, Ella Mamiche, Costas Catsaros - ZAS Architects
Gem Campbell Terazzo & Tile Inc.
Division 9, Stone Tile International
Year of completion

In recent years, particularly in the United States, there has been a strong tendency to redesign university and research institute buildings in keeping with creative criteria, a trend that began with M.I.T.’s Building 20 in Boston which was demolished and rebuilt by Frank Gehry in 1998 to create the spectacular Stata Center. The basic idea is that to cultivate creativity and promote profitable dialogue and collaboration between students and the teaching staff, it is essential to create an environment that is easy to transform and adapt to different subjects, complete with active-learning hallways and open spaces that stimulate the exchange of ideas and free the imagination. These smart and flexible hi-tech buildings should nurture rapid thinking and creativity while displaying a preference for natural light and promoting sustainability and care for the environment.
An outstanding example of this trend is the Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence at the Lassonde School of Engineering of York University in Toronto, Canada, winner of the institutional category of the Tile Competition 2018. «The Centre was designed with the ambitious aim of creating a new generation of Renaissance engineers in the manner of Leonardo da Vinci, professionals who will be able to solve problems in a creative fashion and provide entrepreneurial leadership driven by a social conscience,» explained dean Janusz Kozinski. «The building was designed with this objective in mind, in accordance with the concept of multidisciplinary learning. The large number of social spaces reflect our philosophy of learning by doing.»
With a total surface area of more than 16,000 square metres spread over six floors, the building was designed by ZAS Architects with engineering by the British group Arup based on sustainable building criteria. It exploited the advantages of the energy system already present on the existing campus through the envelope design and the choice of materials for the interiors. These included Downtown porcelain tiles from ABK chosen in the colour Ash, which recreate the essence of natural concrete with their wealth of tones and variations. At once minimalist and fresh, it functions perfectly as a neutral backdrop of exceptional elegance. Used on the ground floor, in all the corridors and in the social spaces, the Downtown tiles stand out for their technical characteristics and composition with a minimum 40% of recycled material, helping the Centre gain LEED Gold certification.
In keeping with the Renaissance principles of innovation and non-conformity, the bold architecture of the Bergeron Centre has an undulating façade consisting of a series of triangles positioned according to a precise and complex algorithm. Inside, bright open spaces take the place of traditional classrooms and laboratories, with social areas skilfully located alongside research areas to promote integration between students, professors and staff. In a reversal of the traditional perspective, here it is the students who have access to the brightest and most prestigious spaces, while studios and offices are located in the interior and more mundane areas. Playful and unexpected design elements alternate with design icons such as the Eames chairs which enjoy pride of place in the lounge. «This is where you get to build things like solar cars,» says Paul Stevens, a senior principal at the practice ZAS. «Once students have their model, they can pitch it to industry leaders in a dressed-up lounge intended as a bridge space between students and the wider world.»

ABK, Downtown
porcelain stoneware
80x80 cm
Technical characteristics
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): ≤ 0,5%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): Classe GL/GLA
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): compliant
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Certifications and awards
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