Centennial College Downsview Campus Centre for Aerospace and Aviation
Client : Centennial College
Area : 138,200 sf
Program : Aircraft Compound, Hangar, Run-Up Station, School of Transportation Engine Labs, Electrical Labs, Avionics Labs, Sheet Metal Labs, School of Technology and Applied Science Labs, CNC rooms, Composites Labs and Clean Room, Classrooms, Study Rooms, Multi-Purpose Rooms, Administrative and Support Spaces
Associated Architects : Stantec
MJMA’s adaptive reuse plan houses the Aviation and Engineering Technology & Applied Science program at Centennial College’s Downsview campus at a site that was once Canada’s epicentre of aviation design and manufacturing. Erected in several stages beginning in 1929, the site’s existing structures comprised a range of materials—masonry, steel frame, reinforced concrete, and wood. The surrounding 500 undeveloped acres were appropriated for a Canadian Forces Base in 1947, later handed off the to the city, and finally designated Canada’s first urban national park in 1999. The next phase in the site’s development established a dynamic learning hub where education is overlaid with public use.
An airstrip, central to the site’s development as an aviation hub and historically its defining feature, resulted in the formation of nearby Downsview Park, which can host gatherings of up to 800,000 people. MJMA’s plan slightly modified this runway to allow aircraft access to the new aviation hub, repurposing a section for public use, including a park, event space, and parking.
The College’s educational programs are housed inside a new extension to the heritage complex comprising two hangars, classrooms, and learning and fabrication spaces including avionics, electronics, engines and composite labs, as well as group study and collaborative zones and admin offices. The new Centre establishes a museum of artifacts from the site’s storied past and exhibits relaying the history of Canadian aviation.
Signage plays a major role in rebranding the structure as a home to aviation education, drawing guests’ attention to the vintages of its various architectural components and positioning the new addition in continuity with nearly a century of history. Public, service, and aircraft circulation patterns were preserved from the original plan, but an element of public space has been woven throughout the ground floor. With existing spaces rescaled to their new programs and their materiality highlighted to illustrate the site’s evolving uses, the challenge was not to introduce a diversity of new areas, but to connect existing areas via public space in a rational way.
To that end, public spaces are configured for optimal views into the new primary hangar and its associated teaching spaces. While the degree of openness is adjusted to create various micro-environments from quiet study rooms to social hubs, throughout the Centre, the scheme connects students to each other, to the Aerospace program, and to the structure’s history.