Redesign and Space Improvements


Having been open for more than fifteen years, the Brown Building has faced challenges in recent years due to the expansion and movement of services, as well as the outdating of some its signage and spaces.

In Winter 2015, Student Services partnered with the McGill Spaces Project and the School of Architecture for what was dubbed "Operation Brown Building". Read on to learn more about Operation Brown Building and what redesign improvements have been made since its conclusion and are still to come.

About Operation Brown Building

Operation Brown Building was a multi-stakeholder building redesign initiative that was created to address a series of complex challenges that have recently emerged in McGill University’s Brown Student Services Building. In response to a request for help from McGill’s Student Services, an interdisciplinary group of students (studying architecture, urban planning, sustainability, and urban systems) developed and undertook an iterative design process that focused on drawing insight and feedback from community engagement and consultation. This process unfolded in the form of a semester-long applied student research course: ARCH 514 - Community Design Workshop, and was collaboratively facilitated by Professor Nik Luka and the McGill Spaces Project, a student-led placemaking organization.

The class began the process by conducting preliminary research on the Brown Building, as well as a situational analysis through a series of interviews with building stakeholders and an observational mapping analysis of the building. Through preliminary research, the students identified the building’s original intention: to unite all student services on campus and provide clear passage from Dr. Penfield to SSMU. The lack of clear signage, the problems with wayfinding, and the prevalence of undefined spaces emerging as major issues (amongst others) during this initial stage of investigation, directly contradict these original goals.

Drawing from the students' analyses, five design categories were chosen to address these issues throughout the length of the project. These included: reorganization (of existing furniture & space); signage; reception area; modular spaces; and greenery. Long-term space interventions were also considered but were mostly identified as out of the project’s scope, keeping budget and time constraints in mind.

Over the course of two rounds of community engagement workshops and two public consultations, student teams created design ideas, while incorporating public feedback at each stage and refining their interventions.

Download the final Operation Brown Building report, produced by students in ARCH 514.

ARCH-514 Students  Community Consultation Event

Completed Space Interventions

  • Colour coding of floors
  • Relocation of McTavish entrance (floor H) info desk and rebranding (AskMcGill)
  • New furniture and location for McTavish entrance (floor H) seating
  • New furniture, configuration, and function for second floor/east wing seating area
  • Greenery (real) throughout Building ("Brown Goes Green")
  • New furniture in third floor connecting corridor area

H Floor Window Nook: Before (seating) / After (new location for revamped information desk)

H Floor Lobby: Before (info desk) / After (new multi-purpose seating)

Second Floor Nook: Before (random furniture) / After (reading area and workstation)

Future Space Interventions

  • New wayfinding signage and technology
  • Increased artwork, especially student-created
  • Installation of high-volume water filling station
  • Redesign of Scholarships and Student Aid waiting area