Ryerson Image Centre

by | 06. Dec 2012

Educational | Feature

Photo: Tom Arban

The Ryerson Image Centre (RIC) completes the transformation of Ryerson University’s School of Image Arts to accommodate gallery space, curatorial and graduate study centers, state-of-the-art storage vaults and student galleries.

With the city parks department transforming an adjacent lot into a public square, with a large pond and ten-foot-high boulders, the windowless former brewery warehouse, that housed the school for 50 years, is now an open and legible program that engages with the campus and community.


Photo: Tom Arban

The facade has a double-skin glass cladding around the top of the three-story building that conceals an LED lighting system.  By day, this opaque glass surface provides a seamless white backdrop to bustling campus life and contrasts the centre’s transparent glazing at ground level.

At night, a dynamic display of multi-colored lights glows in separate panels or in unison, transforming the building into a work of art as a programmable and interactive light installation using an app designed at Ryerson University.  An enormous photo murals marks the entry from the square.


Photo: Tom Arban


Photo: Tom Arban


Photo: Tom Arban


This is a luminous facade for the 21st-Century, one that’s dynamic and colorful, that can be played on with an app and a smart phone, and is made with light – the stuff of photography – to engage and represent this institute to the city.
/ Donald Schmitt, Principal Diamond Schmitt Architects

The existing brick surface received new insulation and a smooth stucco finish to create a monolithic surface to act as a projection screen for the new lighting system. This core layer of envelope was then shrouded by a second skin of translucent structural glass suspended one to five inches away by stainless steel point fittings on an aluminum framework hung from the existing building’s primary structure.

The glazed ground floor creates a welcoming presence, transforming the public square where the campus connects with the city.


Photo: Tom Arban


Photo: Tom Arban


Photo: Tom Arban


Photo: Tom Arban

The mainstay of RIC’s inventory, and the impetus to create the centre, is the Black Star Collection: 292,000 photojournalistic images amassed by the New York-based Black Star photo agency from c. 1910 to 1992. The collection was donated anonymously to Ryerson University.

Besides the main galleries the RIC has additional exhibition space in the Great Hall, Entrance Colonnade and Student Gallery.



Drawing courtesy Diamond Schmitt Architects
 Ground Floor Plan



Drawing courtesy Diamond Schmitt Architects 



CITY Toronto
ARCHITECT Peggy Theodore