Jacqueline Bedard, Executive Director of External and Government Relations, right, and Colleen Wirth, director of student infrastructure support, pose for a photo at the front desk of the new Innovation Commons. (Jackie Hong/Yukon News)

Yukon College officially unveils new $3.59M Whitehorse learning space

Innovation Commons designed to let the sunlight in

The Yukon College’s Ayamdigut campus in Whitehorse officially unveiled its new $3.59-million learning space Jan. 16, with college officials saying they hope the new facility addresses the changing studying and working habits of students in the 21st century.

Called the Innovation Commons, the second-floor space, previously home to a more traditional library, is now largely dominated by an open-concept seating and work area furnished with couches, coffee tables, desks and chairs as well as a new mezzanine. There are also several glass-walled meeting rooms in the centre and to one side of the space, and the book shelves which previously dominated the floor now just run a few rows deep against one wall.

The federal government put $1.528 million in funding towards the renovation, with the Yukon government matching the contribution and the college itself chipping in $531,528.

The Commons’ design and features were heavily influenced by feedback the college received in focus groups with students and First Nations elders, said Colleen Wirth, the college’s director of student infrastructure support, in an interview Jan. 17.

“We heard a lot of repetitive themes about the importance of natural light, bringing the outdoors in,” she said.

“In the Yukon, we have (a) dark season for a number of months of the year, so (we heard about) the importance of colours and season and bringing the circular way of working, seating, and things like natural wood products, natural lights, into the spaces in terms of wanting to create a learning environment that would be inspiring.”

As a result, none of the windows in the Commons are blocked by furniture in order to allow in the most sunlight possible, Wirth said, live-edge tables are aplenty and subtle changes in the patterns on the carpet and lighting fixtures throughout the space are meant to represent different “seasons.”

The space has been open to students since Jan. 3, Wirth added, but a few final touches still need to be made including the installation of more lighting fixtures and unpacking all of the books. Librarians are also in the process of pairing down the campus’ book collection, getting rid of ones that aren’t relevant to any of the college’s programs and digitizing others.

Northern justice and criminology student Alison Harpe, who was studying in a booth in the Commons Jan. 17, said she thinks the space is a vast improvement from the old library.

“It’s awesome,” Harpe said. “There’s a lot more places to sit and it’s a lot brighter as well — the old one used to be pretty dark. It’s comfortable, a place where you can just hang out and you actually want to be in here, so it’s good.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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A work space in the new Innovation Commons. (Jackie Hong/Yukon News)

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