Come September of 2015, McMaster students are in for a treat. Thanks to a $45 million dollar grant from the provincial government and a $10 million dollar donation from retiring Chancellor Lynton (Red) Wilson, the L.R. Wilson Hall for Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences is finally breaking ground and is set to open in time for the 2015-16 academic year.
Although the building currently on site, Wentworth House, has yet to be demolished, at a project launch ceremony on Friday May 31, University faculty and government administration donned hard hats and wielded shovels to formally break ground for the building. Construction is scheduled to be in full swing by early July.
The proposed 62,000 square foot building has an extensive list of attributes, including an Indigenous Studies space and ceremonial area, a joint Social Sciences-Humanities student lounge, a 400 seat lecture hall and underground parking. Music and theatre students will be particularly enthused by the 350-seat concert hall and a versatile black box theatre that can be configured in a variety of ways to suit performance needs.
“We build a space not just for today or tomorrow, but to still be innovative 15 years from now,” said Dr. Charlotte Yates, Dean of Social Sciences at a community open house regarding the building on Monday May 27.
At only five floors tall, the Hall will still manage to encompass departmental office spaces, graduate research areas, seminar rooms and classrooms while being 100 per cent accessible and featuring transgender washrooms on every floor.
The structure itself is also going to be groundbreaking in its design. “We wanted this to be a green building, not only from a sustainability perspective, but also in terms of landscape,” explained Paul Cravit, President of CS&P Architects, and Project Lead on the Wilson building. This commitment involves tree preservation along Sterling and Forsyth Avenue, a garden level on the top floor of the building and a green roof.
In an effort to receive gold certification in the environmental LEED scoring system, the building will be equipped with low pressure plumbing, have bright windows to capitalize on sunlight, and be dimly lit at night.
The liberal arts centered space is the result of an initial letter writing campaign to lobby the government for arts funding. Joe Finkle, MSU VP Education 2010-2011, spearheaded the successful letter-writing campaign during his tenure. In 483 original, unique letters, liberal arts students expressed the need for a new academic and performance space dedicated to their specific needs, and sent them to local MPP Ted McMeekin. Years later, the fruits of Finkle’s and the arts students’ labour are finally becoming a reality.
The building represents the largest liberal arts donation McMaster has ever seen, and is the only arts-focused infrastructure to be funded by the provincial government in this round of financial allocations. Dean of Humanities, Dr. Ken Cruikshank, knows this investment to be worthwhile. “This building is going to change the way we learn,” Cruikshank promised.