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Osgoode Hall reopens after major renovation

Last week marked the official reopening of Osgoode Hall Law School after an extensive redesign by Diamond Schmitt Architects.

“Some cities are built at the right time, some cities are not built at the right time. Dublin was very lucky to be built at the height of Georgian elegance,” says architect Jack Diamond. “Unfortunately, Osgoode Hall was not built at the height of architectural elegance.”

In tackling the project on the York University campus, Diamond says, “There were several things we had as our objectives. Another flaw in the original building—it wasn’t easy to find one’s way around, because of the ‘blind’ nature of the building, not only externally but internally; students never knew whether the faculty was in or out. The common room looked like a nasty sports locker room with no windows whatsoever.”

The new design is a 215,000-square-foot reorganization of the 44-year-old school around an atrium, with a new 23,000-square-foot single-storey addition.

“The aim of the design was obviously to clarify the plan, to make it accessible and understandable,” says Diamond, “to introduce great amounts of natural light and to improve the quality of space so that people would spend more time on campus. That whole lack of a sense of community is exacerbated now by computer, where people can work at home, have access to legal documents, without having to go to the library.”

York raised $32 million for the project, which was bumped up by another $25 million through the federal and provincial governments’ Knowledge Infrastructure Program.

“The net effect has been quite stunning,” Diamond says of the new facility, named the Ignat Kaneff building after the lead donor, a Toronto area developer of Bulgarian extraction. “One of the problem is it’s suffering from its success. It’s so popular with non-law students that you have to show your law student card to get in.”