Break Room at York University

Hidden in the basement level of York University’s Student Centre, mackaywong was engaged by YUSC to transform an underperforming student-run business, aptly named The Underground, into a lively student-inspired hospitality and entertainment experience. The goal was to create a destination that would become the rejuvenated and vibrant social heartbeat of campus life at the university. In response, mackaywong envisioned an eclectic and fun environment that pulsed with positive community vibes capturing the progressive spirit of a brilliantly diverse student population. The strategic aim of BREAK ROOM’s vibrant design was to replace bad memories of a low budget, poorly serviced student run business with a highly popular entertainment venue that would become the favourite place to ‘hang’ on campus.

With the importance of presenting the BREAK ROOM as a ‘BY Students FOR Students’ all-day operation, the brand voice is designed to emphasize the importance of taking a break, getting together, and playing more. Adaptive and flexible gathering spaces were designed to accommodate student clubs/groups/organizations, creating a brand architecture that would be timeless, responsive to the challenging realities of student life and avoid trendy cliches.

The design teams priorities included a complete and critical reimagining of the basement’s relationship with the upper street level Student Hall. The BREAKROOMS storefront was energized through a combination of vivid colour changing lighting, sculptured chromatic signage and bold compositions of acoustic wall panels. The basement interior was aesthetically transformed using a joyful summertime inspired palette of materials, colours, light fixtures, and lush landscape elements. The interior was organized into a series of distinct but connected student lairs which included ‘The Hang’ (chill study space), ‘The Bodega’ (student café and bar) and ‘The Playground’ (social game space). The result is a dynamic interior landscape that offers student a wide variety of intimate and collective experiences depending on their need or desire.

The expansive 11,000 SQFT venue is a responsive and active entertainment space that incorporates strategic design elements that encourage an input and feedback loop. The BREAK ROOM interiors reflect the Student Centres commitment to celebrating diversity, creativity and welcoming accessibility through social fun energy and offering hard working students a place to pause from their studies and re-energize themselves in community.

Ultimately the BREAK ROOM is a relaxing campus retreat where study breaks become memorable adventures with friends and a healthy part of campus life at York University.

Photography by David Whittaker

Services Provided

  • Design Development
  • Brand Definition
  • Design Direction
  • Planning Strategy
  • Concept Direction
  • Construction Administration
  • Positioning Strategies
  • Master-planning and Design
  • Concept Development
  • Contract Documents
  • Constuction Administration
  • Kitchen + Bar Design
  • Environmental Graphics Design
  • Interior Signage Programs
  • Exterior Signage
  • Signage