An international centre for photographic arts designed to house and exhibit one of the world’s most prestigious collections opens September 29, 2012 in downtown Toronto. The Ryerson Image Centre (RIC) completes the transformation by Diamond Schmitt Architects of Ryerson University’s School of Image Arts, renovated to accommodate gallery space, curatorial and graduate study centres, state-of-the-art storage vaults and student galleries. The new centre is designed to museum standards of the Canadian Conservation Institute. 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.
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. RIC brings a new cultural destination to Toronto with an innovative program dedicated to collection, research and public exhibition of photography and related arts.
“In connecting the academic program and the Ryerson Image Centre, we sought to create a crossroads between university life, graduate study and the public realm,” explained Donald Schmitt, Principal with Diamond Schmitt Architects. “A glazed ground floor unifies both programs and creates a welcoming presence, transforming the public square where the campus connects with the city. A transparent, accessible entrance with enormous photo murals marks the entry from the square.”
RIC is a museum-quality facility with main galleries, additional exhibit space in the Great Hall, Entrance Colonnade and Student Gallery. The colonnade features the Salah J. Bachir New Media Wall, a permanent installation visible from the adjacent square. The Mira Godard Graduate Study Centre houses the growing collection of images in a temperature and humidity-controlled vault.
“Creating a state-of-the-art facility for research, storage and exhibition supports RIC in its position as one of the world’s leading centres of photography research and exhibition,” Schmitt added.
The façade has a double-skin glass cladding around the top of the three-storey building that conceals an LED lighting system. This feature won the 2012 AL Light & Architecture Design Award for Best Use of Colour. 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-coloured 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.
“This is a luminous façade for the 21st-Century, one that’s dynamic and colourful, 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,” said Schmitt.
The inaugural exhibition, Archival Dialogues: Reading the Black Star Collection, features eight Canadian artists’ interpretation of the collection. RIC Director Doina Popescu said: “Ryerson Image Centre aims to be the cultural hub of the University and a complimentary voice joining in the arts dialogue taking place in Toronto, in Canada and around the globe.” Text of Diamond Schmitt ArchitectsPress Release.
Location: Toronto, Ontario, CanadaArchitect: DiamondSchmitt Architects Client: Ryerson University