Ryerson Image Centre and School of Image Arts

“The design solution is rigorous and uncompromising, highly appropriate and smart. The lighting effects, while in other circumstances often gratuitous, here speak dynamically to the building’s character and use.”

Toronto Urban Design Awards, Jury Comments

How to celebrate light?

The art of photography is about capturing light, yet over time light threatens photographs. This conundrum is at the heart of the Ryerson Image Arts Centre. Solving it inspired our design.

After the anonymous donation of the revered Black Star Collection, Ryerson University had something special. The School of Image Arts knew they could elevate their program by adding gallery space appropriate to its new holdings.

At the time of the donation, the School was housed in a windowless yellow-brick warehouse that had never been designed to accommodate students and staff. Diamond Schmitt won an invited competition to create the purpose-built space for the School. Rather than tear down the existing building, which would be costly and environmentally unsustainable, we proposed opening it up and giving it new life.

We also suggested connecting the building to the street with glazed student space and re-cladding the rest of the building with laminated glass suffused with LED light. These panels’ illumination, the heart of the design, can be animated by artists or be crowd-sourced via digital app.

By inviting the public into photography’s darkroom, the building sheds light on the medium while protecting the collections.

Location Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Client Ryerson University
Completion 27/09/2012


Photography Tom Arban, Sid Tabak and Ryerson Image Centre


Awards See all project awards
2015 CODA awards – Education Category, Award of Merit
2014 National Urban Design Awards – Urban Architecture, Certificate of Merit
2014 Spark Design Awards – Spaces Design, Gold
2013 Ontario Association of Architects – Design Excellence Award
2013 SCUP/AIA-CAE Excellence in Architecture for Building Additions or Adaptive Reuse – Honor Award
2013 Toronto Urban Design Awards – Public Buildings in Context, Award of Merit
2012 Architectural Lighting Magazine – Light and Architecture Design Awards, Best Use of Colour
Team See full project team
Steven Bondar
Liviu Budur
Zvonimir Cicvaric
Rebecca Lai
Tara Plett
Donald Schmitt
Peggy Theodore