Alley Rejuvenation

Location:

Windsor, Ontario

Original Project Year:

2018

Objective:

To transform a unused alley, once part of the main entrance to the history armories into a spot for students.

The Site:

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The alley is located next to the newly renovated Windsor Armories building, now occupied by the University of Windsor Faculty of Arts. Aside from an occasional delivery to the offices on the rear parking lot side, the alley remains unused.

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Building usage around alley

Context:

Postcard 1911, view of the main entrance on the side and the north entrance closest to camera

Since its construction in 1901, the Windsor Armories has stood as a monument in Windsor's downtown. In 1918, the Palace Cinemas (now host to the Windsor Star and many other small businesses) was constructed in front of the original front entrance to the armories, creating the site used in this project. In 2015, the building was sold to the University of Windsor as part of a downtown campus expansion which saw the purchase of the art-moderne Greyhound bus station across the street, and the old heritage Windsor Star building.

The project's focus was to create a multipurpose building to unite the whole faculty of arts, who were formally divided among separate buildings, under one roof. The move to the new building saw the loss of the atmosphere of a building that housed art students. The old art building, the Lebel building, had artwork plastered on every surface; the walls, the floor, the ceiling, the lockers, even the benches. The building felt like an art building from the moment you stepped inside.

Interior of front entryway of the Windsor Armories

Across Freedom Way, the University also built a new building to house the wood working and metal sculpting shops. The University's plan is to transform the street into a pedestrian corridor and green space for the students to cross between buildings. The rendering, shown in a UWindsor handout, shows the Armories on the left and the new sculpture building on the right.

Image courtesy of the University of Windsor

The Design:

View of alley from University Ave.

Opposite to Freedom Way lies the site for this project, a forgotten strip of the once main entrance. The goal of this project was to make the space usable and inviting to students, as well as to bring back the atmosphere of an art building.

View of armories Alley from University A

Opposite to Freedom Way lies the site for this project, a forgotten strip of the once main entrance. The goal of this project was to make the space usable and inviting to students, as well as to bring back the atmosphere of an art building.

View of alley from University Ave.

Laying new concrete down required average temperatures to be considered for Windsor, Ontario. Windsor uses salt from its salt mine in order to melt winter ice which causes a large amount of damage to the roads due to freeze-thaw. The chart shows how much the temperature can vary in the city on a daily basis in 2018.

View of University Ave from Windsor Armories alley (looking north)

For the floor of the alley, using concrete with recycled plastic mixed in to replace the sand allows for a 25% increase in flexibility and a 1.2% increase in compressive strength compared to regular concrete. This type of asphalt concrete has a large number of benefits over regular asphalt; it does not require petroleum; it is more cost effective to install; the plastic allows for a much lower working temperature (a reduction by as much as 50°C) which lowers VOC and carbon emissions; it does not absorb water; the increased tensile strength allows for far greater flexibility which greatly reduces the need for maintenance. Read more about performance here.

View of University Ave from alley (looking north)

To further increase the lifespan of the concrete, a hydronic snow and ice melting system is installed underneath the asphalt above a layer of insulation. By running water through pipes, the heat from the water melts any ice or snow the accumulates eliminating the need for salt. This system is used on the main UWindsor campus. The easy to install systems can heat in the winter and cool in the summer, greatly extending the lifespan of the concrete.

Diagram by PPI

Giving this space to the students creates an outdoor space for the artists to paint, draw, or even sculpt. With time, the accumulation of messy art mediums will finally give this building the feeling of an arts building and give downtown Windsor a touch of contemporary art. Over time, as new generations of students come, the art in the alley will reflect the colour palletes that will be used by future contemporary artists.

View of alley at night from University Ave

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