Established in 1841, Queen’s University is one of Canada’s leading educational institutions, enrolling more than 24,000 students each year in post-secondary programs. Situated in Kingston, Ontario, the main campus resides on roughly 100 acres of land on the southwestern edge of downtown, interspersed with private homes, shops, and medical buildings. The campus is ladened with historical structures – original buildings that exude the rich history established over the years.
Located in the northern end of campus, on the former site of the Physical Education Centre and Jock Harty Arena, Mitchell Hall is a hub where every aspect of campus life intersects. Following an extensive $85 million restoration and renovation project completed in 2018, Mitchell Hall now includes three gymnasiums, a high-performance training centre, two multi-purpose classrooms, and office space for the Athletics & Recreation department. Based on its location, its space offerings, and the fact that Mitchell Hall is considered a critical artery for campus foot traffic and several high attending activities, the need to update the space to accommodate today’s hectic pace was in high demand.
The original Physical Education Centre was in dire need of a refresh – an update to help with improved operation and use for modern-day university life. However, it was essential to maintain the building’s heritage intact by keeping much of the original structure, where possible. With partners, such as Allegion, the result was a striking balance of both yesterday and today.
With thousands of people passing through the doors and hallways each day (approximately 4,000-5,000 people enter and exit the building on average, with peak times seeing to 8,000-10,000 people) – leveraging the Mitchell Hall’s facilities or using the tunnel system to access other campus buildings – the need for high-quality, reliable door hardware and fixtures was vital. Retro-fitting an existing historical building in a way that could maintain the rich historical design but provide the modern-day amenities was the task at hand.
When you approach the Union Street entrance, you feel as if you’re back in time by the building’s original structure. The intricate stonework and masonry make their own architectural statement as you walk through the large, solid oak double doors. To ensure the central doorway was easily accessible for all and up to code without interrupting the overall historical look and feel, the doors were outfitted with interior hardware, concealed electric latch retraction vertical cables, and a concealed auto-door operator, all designed to withstand the rigours of daily campus life. Once inside the hall, the space brings you back to modern day with contemporary lines, bold colours, and the use of a variety of wall facades, panelling and fixtures. The school’s history is not forgotten, with unique elements added throughout. For example, the exposed brick wall from the original structure is integrated into the final design of the David H. Pakrui Lounge located on the main floor.
Allegion, a long-standing building product supplier of Queen’s University and their top provider for door hardware, played a crucial role in the modernization of Mitchell Hall. Various materials were used for doorways and entry points, requiring a mix of the proper hardware including hardware for a series of unique doors made from Western Red Cedar, a material not commonly used for door design.
The transformation of Mitchell Hall took three years and was completed in 2018, becoming a key area for students, faculty, and visitors of Queen’s University. Although the space wasn’t utilized as planned during the early stages of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Queens opened Mitchell Hall as a vaccination clinic, once again, seeing hundreds of people pass through the doors each day. The space, built with solid structural materials and durable fixtures, now provides a balanced blend of the school’s historical past with the amenities and design of today.