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Elevated Bridge Fosters Connections at Appleby College

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Awb Alumni Centre E Scott Norsworthy M08
[Photo by Scott Norsworthy, courtesy of Perkins&Will]

Every Monday, students gather for an all-school assembly in the gymnasium of A.W.B. Alumni Centre for Athletics and Student Life, which opened in 2020 on the campus of Appleby College, a day and boarding school in Oakville, Ont. They have two options to get there from an adjacent science building: a ground-level courtyard or a glass-enclosed bridge linking the second levels of both buildings. According to Perkins&Will project architect Michael Blois, school administrators were adamant from the start of planning that a fully enclosed connection be part of the Alumni Centre design in the interest of convenience for both students and maintenance staff (think 800 students tracking snow into the new gym). The bridge is elevated to preserve ground-level traffic flow, but that stipulation presented engineering challenges for the design team. The bridge needed to slope down to meet the science building, which was deemed structurally incapable of supporting its weight. Columns located three meters from the science building’s footprint support the bridge, which then cantilevers and connects to the existing building via a large expansion joint. Other considerations included fire ratings and alarms, as well as service access to the bridge’s roof. The structure’s interior features handrails and pedestal-mounted heaters, and aesthetic elements on the exterior — such as knee-height spandrel shadowbox glazing and deep vertical fins — match the Alumni Centre’s design language. “It did turn out to be quite a complicated thing — almost a building unto itself,” Blois says of the bridge, which accounted for nearly $1 million of the project’s $28.8 million (Canadian) price tag. “It was definitely a challenge for the team, and we tried very much to make it integrated with the design and not feel as though it was a tacked-on element. In the end, it does really feel a part of the building.”

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