Let there be light: the Seymour Schulich Building opens


Above, left to right: Jamie Wright of Robbie Young + Wright Architects Inc.; Kathleen Wynne, MPP (behind her, obscured, is Siamak Hariri of Hariri Pontarini Architects); Matt Ainley, president and COO of Vanbots Construction Corp.; Lorna R. Marsden, York president and vice-chancellor; Don Griffin, Vanbots project director for Schulich; Dezsö Horváth, dean of Schulich School of Business; Seymour Schulich, philanthropist and lead donor for the new building; Avie Bennett, York chancellor; Gary Brewer, York vice-president finance & administration; Marshall Cohen, Chair of York’s Board of Governors; and David Lindsay, president and CEO of the former Ontario SuperBuild Corporation (now part of the new Ministry of Public Infrastructure Renewal)

It was a dream at least seven years in the making, and on Friday it became an official reality. Amid the floor-to-high-ceiling glass and the grand staircase of its central CIBC Marketplace, the Seymour Schulich Building, the new home of York’s Schulich School of Business, was opened in a style befitting the new structure’s elegance.

Right: The grand staircase in the new Seymour Schulich Building

The natural light that the building’s design team deemed essential was streaming through the windows as podium speakers praised the building and the top-ranked school.

“We are here to celebrate a state-of-the-art, dynamic, interactive, world-calibre learning environment,” declared Schulich Dean Dezsö Horváth. On this “long-awaited day,” he said, “we have come of age not only nationally but internationally.”


President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden said that “this outstanding building is going to serve the University for many generations to come.” It would, she added, “enhance the life of everyone here.”

Left: Dezsö Horváth, with Avie Bennett on his left

Seymour Schulich himself was front and centre for the traditional ribbon cutting. The Toronto mining magnate and philanthropist was the lead donor (at $7 million) for the $102-million building, financed in collaboration with the Ontario government’s SuperBuild program, and has given a total of $24 million since 1995 to the school that bears his name. Horváth said Schulich had long “argued quietly and not-so-quietly for a new building.”

Kathleen Wynne, parliamentary assistant to Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Mary Anne Chambers in the new Liberal provincial government, said the new administration would encourage such collaborative projects. “The Schulich school will be an example of what collaboration can accomplish,” she said.

Many in the crowd took the opportunity to tour the new building. Schulich Professor James McKellar, a real property expert and an architect who played a key role in overseeing the building’s design process, showed off the building’s glass-walled offices, its “clustered” work areas – with meeting rooms, offices and two receptionists (so students and others still can get attention when one is away from the desk) – and its comfortable lounges complete with gas fireplaces.

Left: Avie Bennett, left, and Marshall Cohen

The design process, he noted, was “user-driven” in which students were consulted along with faculty and others involved. It was important to make everyone feel at home – “little things matter,” he noted. The employee lounge even has a dishwasher and an oven, going beyond the “microwave and toaster” kitchens common in so many offices.

And everywhere there is all that natural light. McKellar said that during a recent daytime power outage in the now-occupied building, “everyone seemed to be saying, I don’t have my lights on anyway.”

McKellar, who made an initial proposal for a new building seven years ago, noted that the work is not yet complete. “We’re still fine-tuning. Ninety per cent of this we’ve never done before.”

Others in the York community are welcome to visit the Schulich building, McKellar said. There will be regular tours organized once the new concierge desk is staffed; in the meantime, people can contact him directly or just stroll around.