From breaking ground to a groundbreaking building

From breaking ground to a groundbreaking building

May 4, 2017


As he provides an update on the Innovation and Wellness Centre, John Witjes can’t help but get excited about the finished product. 

“Seeing a state-of-the-art facility rise from a building built in the 1930s and the 1970s will be really impressive,” says the associate vice-principal (facilities). “Connecting the old and the new is something that Queen’s does well – just look at Goodes Hall and the Isabel – and the Innovation and Wellness Centre is going to be another great example of that.”

[Foundation rising at IWC]
After the demolition work, crews started forming and pouring columns, foundation, and shear walls for the new Innovation and Wellness Centre. (Submitted photo) 

Construction work began on the project in September 2016, thanks to investments from Queen’s, the federal and provincial governments, and numerous benefactors. When students return to campus in September 2018, they will have full access to expanded research and innovation spaces, a wellness centre, athletics and recreation facilities, the Queen’s University International Centre, and a new Exam Centre.

Within the next couple of weeks, the Queen’s community will notice a shift in the project. Demolition is nearly complete, and the new structure will start to rise out of the ground. Crews have poured footings and foundations and the structural steel will arrive on the construction site next week.

“It will be very exciting to watch this incredible building truly start to take shape,” says Benoit-Antoine Bacon, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic). “The steel structure will soon rise into view, and soon after we will start to fit in the state of the art research, innovation and student wellness spaces that make this project so important for the future of Queen’s.”

Mr. Witjes says crews have managed to stay on schedule while overcoming certain challenges that arise from retrofitting an existing building instead of constructing something brand new. 

“You will always find unexpected things that you have to react to or design around,” Mr. Witjes says. “It’s particularly challenging with this project because there are essentially two buildings: the 1930s building and the 1970s addition.”

The project team is also taking great care to preserve the heritage components of the original structure. The limestone façade facing Union Street will remain, and Queen’s will reinstate the original windows.

[Front facade of IWC]
The new Innovation and Wellness Centre will include the original limestone façade. Queen’s will also reinstate the original windows. (Submitted photo)

While the heritage aspects on the outside will remain, the inside will have a completely new look and feel. From Union Street, visitors will enter into an expansive space with skylights and glass on all sides. The Bews Gymnasium that used to be at the front of the building will be relocated underneath the Ross Gym.

“Whereas the old building was very compartmentalized and disconnected, the new building will be much more open. We are introducing intersecting spaces where people will come into contact with each other as they travel from one area of the building to the other,” Mr. Witjes says.

The building will be enclosed by the end of the fall, with crews continuing to work inside through the winter. Mr. Witjes says he appreciates the Queen’s community’s co-operation and understanding as the university constructs a major capital project in the heart of campus.

“We realize it is disruptive, but I think the facility is going to be amazing and people are going to be impressed by the end result,” he says. “With so many key components of the Queen’s student learning experience coming together in this space, it’s nice to see this happening to a building that is in the centre of campus. It’s going to be really exciting.”

Follow the construction live on this webcam

[Innovation and Wellness Centre]
An architectural rendering of the Innovation and Wellness Centre, showing the blend of the old building and the new structure. The centre will include expanded research and innovation spaces, a wellness centre, athletics and recreation facilities, the Queen’s University International Centre, and a new Exam Centre.


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