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Student success by design: NOTL Campus student commons wins award

A popular student space at Niagara College has been named among the best in Canada.

Canadian Interiors magazine has selected the College’s Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) Campus student commons as a winner in its 2018 Best of Canada Design Competition. The NC space is among 22 projects – one of three in the institutional category – to be named winners of the magazine’s 21st annual competition, celebrating the best interior and product design across Canada.

According to Canadian Interiors editor Peter Sobchak, Best of Canada Design Competition winners were selected by a panel of four judges and professionals within the interior design industry. “Canadian Interiors’ Best of Canada Design Competition is the country’s only design competition to focus on interior design projects and products without regard to size, budget or location,” said Sobchak. “We welcome submissions from interior designers, architects, interior architects, decorators, and crafts persons.”

The NC project was submitted to the competition by Toronto-based architecture and interior design studio Gow Hastings Architects. A project team from Gow Hastings completed the design for the new NC space in January 2017.

Winners were announced in mid-July, and the NOTL Campus student commons is featured in the current print and online issue of the magazine in an article that refers to it as “one of the most sought-out spaces on campus.”

“We are thrilled about this award,” said Valerie Gow, partner of Gow Hastings Architects. “What is interesting about this project is the remarkable transformation of the space.”

The newly renovated student commons offers a welcoming, social and collaborative environment which doubled the space of the previous cafeteria, featuring new furniture, connectivity and a 30-foot integrated video wall. Canadian Interiors highlights several features of the newly renovated area, which breaks down the former physical barrier that divided the former gym and cafeteria. The new large open space offers areas for eating, socializing and studying, while keeping it flexible for events. It also makes note of a bulkhead, which lowers the ceiling to create a more intimate setting over the cafeteria, and the custom lighting that creates a distinct sense of place.

Niagara College’s corporate services vice-president Pam Skinner congratulated Gow Hastings on the recognition of its design. “One of our key goals in undertaking campus redevelopment at Niagara College is to enhance the student experience in learning and connecting with the College community,” said Skinner. “College staff and students worked closely with Gow Hastings on their creative design ideas, and we are thrilled with how the transformation modernized and expanded the space to create a welcoming place for students to eat, connect and relax in comfort on a daily basis.”

The NOTL Campus student commons has been receiving rave reviews from the College community. NC Student Administrative Council president Ryan Huckla noted that the revitalized area was a joint renovation project between Niagara College and the NCSAC that answered the need for updated food services and collaborative student space, while repurposing the former gymnasium and giving “new life to an old space on campus.”

“This space is well-used, has exceeded all expectations, and the feedback from students and faculty alike has been incredible,” said Huckla. “We look forward to our continued work with Niagara College on our additional joint campus redevelopment projects to ensure the needs of students are met and surpassed.”

The student commons project was part of the college’s $65-million campus redevelopment project designed to modernize learning environments and enhance the student experience.

The multiple-award-winning Gow Hastings Architects has worked on several projects for Niagara College over the years. At the NOTL Campus, their projects include the recent addition to the Canadian Food and Wine Institute, as well as a renovation on the ground floor of NOTL including the health centre, admissions, welcome centre and welcome desk areas. At the Welland Campus, Gow Hastings completed the student services and admissions centre, as well as the new student commons building addition and renovation.



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