Ten-year master plan set to ‘re-wild’ McMaster University in Hamilton

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Published June 25, 2024 at 10:57 am

McMaster University, Hamilton

McMaster University in Hamilton is working with a British architecture and design firm to ‘re-wild’ parts of the campus to return the lands back to nature.

The ambitious concept is part of the university’s ten-year Campus Plan, which seeks to develop a new long-term vision for the campus and provides a framework for the development of McMaster’s physical plan over the next decade.

The project, with expertise provided by Building Design Partnership (BDP) and its Toronto-based BDP Quadrangle division, is the British company’s first education contract in North America.

“This is a design rooted in sustainable connectivity that will provide a physical transformation across the campus,” said Sue Emms, BDP’s head of education. “It is also an expression of a clear vision to create more civic space and build an effective eco-system that is engaged with Indigenous, local, national and global communities. It is a new civic face for the institution.”

Plans include a long-term vision that supports “innovation, well-being, inclusion and a sense of community” for more than 47,000 McMaster students, faculty and staff.

“Our new campus plan provides a pathway to create a living laboratory for our bold aspirations while keeping sustainability, accessibility, equity and inclusion at the forefront of how we grow,” said McMaster President David Farrar. “This plan imagines places and spaces that can create impact, foster ambition and inspire transformation. We must develop in a way that reflects and supports the quality of the education and research taking place here.”

McMaster’s campus was designed in the 1960s and follows a traditional suburban ‘campus’ style with significant areas of surface car parking, under-utilised space, and segregated ‘zoned’ areas.

Part of the plan’s vision includes revising entrances so that they are more welcoming and greener and bringing back nature to areas once paved over for human use, such as a parking lot slated for rewilding.

The long-term strategy will happen with strategic infill development by locating new buildings where they can “increase vibrancy” and creating new and biodiverse green spaces.

The plan’s vision and framework was worked out following a year-long consultation process, noted Farrar. “This plan imagines places and spaces that can create impact, foster ambition and inspire transformation,” he said, adding the campus plan will provide a pathway to “create a living laboratory” to guide how the university grows.

The plan will also provide a framework for the physical transformation of the main campus, as well as locations downtown and in Burlington and furthers the school’s commitment to a vehicle-free core campus, consolidating parking and transit service at the campus edges. There will be a transit hub, anchored by the LRT at the southwest edge of campus, which will provide seamless integration between all modes of transportation and making the campus more pedestrian-friendly.

The overarching objective of the plan is about sustainability and green infrastructure and will include climate-resilient buildings and naturalized areas for rainwater management, which also aligns with the City of Hamilton’s strategic objectives.

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