Western Alumni

Grow, modernize, beautify

Western is undergoing a transformation

By Debora Van Brenk, BA’86, MA’87

An artist rendering of the new Indigenous Learning Space

From a net-zero energy space for budding entrepreneurs, to an Indigenous solstice lounge and bright new wellness centre, Western’s building plans are helping transform campus into a more sustainable, inclusive place.

More than 300 capital projects are scheduled for this year.

Some “small” projects pack a big visual punch – replacing the track and turf at TD Stadium, for example – while other upgrades, such as replacing chillers at the Imaging Pathogens for Knowledge Translation (ImPaKT) Facility provide crucial behind-the-scenes improvements.

The signature project, and the largest of the year, will be the start of construction on a new Entrepreneurship and Innovation Centre – a building as remarkable for its sustainable design as for its role in bringing people, business and ideas together.

It will be Western’s first net-zero energy building (total energy generated will be equal to or more than the energy it consumes) and will feature small and large interior spaces where students, faculty and staff can turn ideas into innovative businesses.

Visitors to campus will also notice a “massive transformation” of outdoor pathways, gathering areas and natural spaces – part of Western’s Open Space strategy. Campus will also be more bike- and pedestrian-friendly.

“We want to be ready for the next century, to be good stewards of this beautiful campus – and to do that, we have to make strategic investments,” said Lynn Logan, vice-president (operations and finance).

Overall, capital investments for the coming year will total $153 million, including $55.4 million on new construction and $34.5 million for major renovations.

Among the major builds/rebuilds in progress or newly completed are: retrofits for Thames Hall to create a full-service wellness centre; more collaborative research and study space in the D.B. Weldon Library; a brighter, better student area in Somerville House; planning for a new gathering hub on the east end of campus; repurposing the former Faculty of Education library into an Indigenous learning space; and beautifying open spaces.

Logan said the overarching purpose of each is to support the university’s teaching, learning and research mission, and to improve the student experience now and for the future.

Elizabeth Krische, associate vice-president (facilities management), said, “The projects are all intended to grow, modernize and beautify the amenities we have for students, faculty and staff. We’re repurposing some spaces and building new ones, as we plan for a campus that will serve this generation and generations to come.”

Krische added, “If there’s a predominant theme, inside and out, it’s a focus on more and better open spaces. Even the new and repurposed buildings have lots of natural light and that makes a huge difference.”


Rendering of the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Centre
Western Entrepreneurship and Innovation Centre: 
A pre-eminent interdisciplinary entrepreneurial space

Vision: A place where innovative and collaborative business ideas can germinate and thrive. For use by everyone who has ideas for inventing, making, growing and sharing business ideas.

Features: Western’s first net-zero energy building, includes geothermal (ground-source) heat and cooling; green roof; triple-glazed windows; courtyard opens into great hall and event spaces; windows, windows, windows (with birdstrike-prevention measures); generous use of natural light and space; maker and co-working spaces; common lobby on main floor.

Architects: Perkins+Will, 
Cornerstone Architecture

Space: 100,000 square feet. Located between Law Building and Western Student Services Building

Timing: Construction summer 
2021 to 2022


Rendering of the Thames Hall renovation
Thames Hall: Gym, 
kinesiology offices and classrooms retrofitted to become wellness centre

Vision: Holistic approach to student wellness, activity and well-being with amenities that are welcoming and available to all students.

Features: Calming, inclusive spaces with three-storey atrium repurposed from former gym; gathering spaces and rooms bordering on atrium have open walls; private office, clinical, gathering spaces are approachable and accessible.

Architect: Tillman Ruth Robinson

Timing: Construction completed fall 2021


Rendering of the D.B. Weldon Library renovations
D.B. Weldon Library: Major renovation

Vision: Update and renew the space to meet current and future learning needs; a place that recognizes and enables collaborative, multi-resource learning.

Features: New learning commons; updated mechanical and electrical systems; 
staff room.

Architects: Perkins+Will, Cornerstone Architecture

Timing: First phase completed fall 2021


Rendering of Somerville House
Somerville House student space: Open indoor space retrofit from hallway beside Lucy’s eatery

Vision: Create a new indoor student hub in the heart of campus where people can gather, eat and study.

Features: Interior walls to be removed to create large common space, large lounge, three private study rooms; fully accessible space including seating, ramps, washrooms and elevator that provides access to all three floors, including the Great Hall; Lucy’s eatery to be updated and other, more diverse food options to be added.

Architect: Cornerstone Architecture

Timing: Construction completed fall 2021


Rendering of open space renovations
Open spaces: Sustainability and beautification

Vision: Builds on Western’s Open Space Strategy to accommodate future growth on campus while making it more friendly to and safer for pedestrians and cyclists. More memorable, welcoming, beautiful, functional, safe and sustainable public spaces that embed stewardship into the landscape.

Features: Unified look throughout outdoor studying, gathering, pedestrian spaces; paving stones and benches; new welcome plaza at base of University College hill; McIntosh plaza and Kent rain garden in front of Physics and Astronomy Building; Oxford Square at north corner of Social Sciences Building; Talbot Music walkway between Music Building and International and Graduate Affairs Building.

Timing: Consultation on University College hill starts fall 2021


Rendering of the new Indigenous Learning Space
Indigenous Learning Centre: Retrofitted from Faculty of Education library

Vision: A gathering place that strives to be a supportive social, cultural and learning hub for Indigenous students, faculty and staff. A touchstone for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to gather and learn together, building relationships in the spirit of reconciliation, decolonization and Indigenization.

Features: ‘Solstice lounges’ on second floor for people to study or rest; constellations painted on inside of dome; gathering space on main floor; Indigenous medicine garden outside.

Architects: Redquill,
Tillman Ruth Robinson

Space: More than 10,000 square feet

Timing: Construction starting 
fall 2021