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Project Details
McMaster University Student Activity Building and Fitness Expansion

Client : McMaster University
Area : 107,000 sf
Program : Gymnasium, Fitness Centre, High Performance Training Centre, Fitness Studios, Climbing Wall, Student Centre, Multi-Purpose Rooms, Student Lounges, Prayer Rooms, Grocer, Administrative and Support Spaces
On McMaster’s Hamilton campus—just steps from the Cootes Paradise Marsh at the westernmost tip of Lake Ontario—the SAB is an expansion to an existing complex of athletics buildings and outdoor sports fields.

One of the project’s key challenges is integrating the new structure’s higher ceilings with those of the existing facilities, managing conditions and electrical and mechanical continuity across inconsistent floor plates. This is achieved by identifying key points of friction from the outset and developing an initial approach that unifies new and old through the reorientation of mechanical rooms, the strategic placement of bulkheads, new routing and systems approaches, and new safety and exiting measures.

The resulting 107,000-square-foot interior includes both academic and student spaces. Texture, shape, and daylighting are carefully modulated for optimal performance and acoustic control—a way to create more intimate and inviting spaces—as a foundational strategy. This is especially true of the two large atriums around which the centre is organized, and which will host on-campus events.

The lower of the two atriums incorporates amphitheatre-style seating in an informal performance venue for up to 600 spectators. This space—which doubles as a study area, student lounge, and social space—extends through retractable doors to an outdoor area where interior and exterior elements connect via a row of large doors and an elevated stage element; at the end of Stearn Drive, currently a drop-off zone, the exterior will be transformed into a new arrival area with ramped entries for universal access and a sheltered microclimate conducive to informal gatherings. The upper atrium, with a capacity of 500, is acoustically designed for more formal large-scale performances, with movable furniture and partition walls that allow the space to expand as needed.

Positioned around the atriums are a gym and fitness centre with studios, a high-performance training centre and climbing wall, a student centre, multipurpose rooms, student lounges, prayer rooms, admin and support spaces, and a grocer. A range of sustainability measures are woven throughout with a focus on occupant health and comfort, putting the SAB on track for LEED Silver accreditation. Although it occupies a constrained site, the SAB seamlessly adds ample new amenities to the established complex, in a wide range of highly functional and flexible spaces that will enhance the student experience for years to come.