Aerial View of South Residence, Looking North ca 1969

Aerial View of South Residence, Looking North ca 1969." Ken Barton, Photographer. Neg. 544-3. Courtesy of University of Guelph Student Housing Services.

The design of South Residence, one of Canada’s largest student residence complexes, was somewhat experimental. The basic element of the building is the single room with moveable, modular furniture. To make sure it worked, the architects built a full-scale model of the room within their offices and staff took turns sleeping in it. They took photos of people living in it and had parties in it. They brought in a physiatrist and a psychologist to see if there might be anything harmful about it.

The Brutalist megastructure, completed in 1968, was designed to be a self-contained city with internal “streets” connecting “houses” (called “towers” by students) that featured both single rooms and shared living spaces. The modular pattern of residence halls was laid out in the shape of inverted “F’s”–each with its own dining pod. This design allowed modules to be added or subtracted depending on the final student population projected by the University.

These inverted “F”-shaped residence modules had 4 wings connect to each other at crossroads. Three dining and common rooms are connected to associated residences via a bridge over a four-lane road. The basic social unit is the “alcove,” which consists of 4 single rooms and 1 double room sharing a landing and a washroom. There is built-in flexibility for separation or mixing of sexes on the basis of house, alcove floor, or room. Washrooms do not have urinals to maximize this flexibility depending on the ratios of male to female. Andrews believed the alcove construct to be the ideal grouping to build relationships because it resembled a typical family setting of 6 people. This layout has proven to be very successful as students report a high level of bonding and trust within the alcove.

Architectural Record, September 1966 Issue (Reprint) (McGraw-Hill, Inc.)

Architectural Record, September 1966 Issue (Reprint) (McGraw-Hill, Inc.) from Box 8 File 81, Roger du Toit Architects Collection, Archival & Special Collections, University of Guelph Library (XL1 MS A016102A).

This 1966 issue of Architectural Record shows the design intricacies from various points of view: single room, tower, full residence hall, and the building’s complete footprint, initially envisioned to require 5 modules.