The University of King’s College is celebrated for many things: its Foundation Year Program (FYP), its School of Journalism, its upper year honours programs, its curious and creative students, its extraordinary faculty, its theatre, music and sports, and the togetherness that only a small and well-conceived living space can nurture. King’s offers a seamless continuity of learning and personal development from academic programs to the broader life of the College and back again. The residence experience provides an essential cornerstone of this model.
“Living in residence has been at the heart of my time at King’s!”
— Lucy Boyd, second-year student, History and Early Modern Studies
There was nothing random in the design and construction of these residences in 1929. Rather, Cobb drew inspiration from the bays of the original King’s in Windsor, Nova Scotia, as well as from the classical stairwell design of Oxford and Cambridge colleges. In this design student rooms are clustered closely around a stairwell. The effect is to make each landing a small community unto itself within the larger community formed by the shared staircase. This effect is reinforced by the design of student rooms. Most of these are “double room” configurations where each student has their own room joined to that of their roommate by an interior door.
For almost one hundred years, this design has given students a unique residential experience that transcends the typical either-or choice between a single and a double room. It is a design that reflects the ideal that learning and growth needs both solitude and discussion with a kindred spirit, one wrestling with, or taking inspiration from, the same great books.
In an age of increasing digital isolation, the mental health benefits of this intentional design are increasingly appreciated. These buildings, and the sense of camaraderie they encourage, reinforce the commonality of the educational experience at King’s, where virtually all first-year students are fellow-travellers on the journey through the ages that is FYP.
The tri-bay building of today
The “tri-bays,” while technically sharing one roof, are referred to in the plural as they comprise three distinct “bays,” or residences: Chapel Bay, Middle Bay, and Radical Bay. Each is currently home to 24 students. All three bays are being sympathetically restored, with each improvement remaining faithful to the vision of Andrew Cobb and its realization in the residence life that King’s students have loved for a century.
Professor William Lahey, President and Vice-Chancellor of King’s, promises, “The restoration of the tri-bay buildings maintains the architectural, pedagogical, and educational integrity of the original residences. The purpose of our physical space is to lead students towards the companionship and shared identity that is fundamental to the King’s experience. At their matriculation ceremony, new King’s students promise to live by the precepts of communal living and learning for the rest of their lives. Our residences are where they first put that promise into action in a fun residence experience that encourages the sharing of knowledge, ideas, questions, and friendship.”
Benefits of living in King’s residences
Katie Merwin, Dean of Students, is a proud King’s alumna and a former residence don. She speaks from experience when she says that you can’t separate the living environment from the learning environment at King’s: “We encourage upper-year students to live on the top floors of the bays to set the tone and help show what working hard and having fun looks like.”
Maintaining and restoring these magnificently designed buildings is critical to the rich residential experience for which King’s is known.
Despite care and regular maintenance, years of constant use have taken their toll. The demands of 21st century life can no longer be accommodated by 1920s construction.
Director of Facilities Management, Ian Wagschal, is committed to enhancing the student experience in the Bay buildings with essential upgrades that sustain the historic character of the buildings.
“We will modernize the interior infrastructure with new heating, a ventilation system, and new plumbing and energy savings. We will make the rooms bigger by replacing existing closets with wardrobes and will modernize bathrooms on each floor. But we will retain the room-within-a-room structure that students love.”
Despite being well-designed, well-built and maintained as best as possible over the years, the Bays’ almost one-hundred years of continual use shows.
The new feature most requested by students will be a common room with kitchen facilities, where students will be able to spend time together informally, sharing meals, chatting, relaxing and comparing ideas.
With a restoration that will preserve the original architectural vision and beauty of these buildings, alumni coming back to campus will still feel as if they are coming home. We can restore the Bays to their original splendour while moving forward with necessary modernizations that will improve student comfort and quality of life. This project will also help King’s in recruiting and retaining students, thereby contributing to the financial stability of the college.
Andrew Cobb’s vision will be restored and refreshed with:
- • renewed gutters, dormers, and interior finishes
- • expanded, modernized washrooms
- • kitchenettes added to the dons’ suites
- • the addition of one large common room in Middle Bay for all tri-bay students
- • all new furniture and the rooms enhanced with new millwork and paint.
These improvements, necessary from an environmental and risk management point of view, will also preserve the much-loved spirit of the place, continuing to build community–and life-long friendships–for students.