Building Magazine


Architecture faculty to transform and inhabit long-time conundrum on U of T campus

The University of Toronto unveiled an ambitious plan to transform one of the most iconic – and troublesome—sites on the downtown and even arguably in the city: One Spadina Crescent.

The plan — designed by Nader Tehrani, principal of the internationally firm NADAAA, with collaborator Katie Faulkner – will overhaul the site and make it the new home of the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, which will move from its current home on College Street. The building project will renew the south-facing 19th century Gothic Revival building and build out the unrealized northern face of the circle with a piece of contemporary architecture injection.

Attempts to correctly utilize the beautiful yet awkwardly shaped and located structure has long-plagued the University. Originally built as a vista to the lake along Spadina Avenue, it has held the purpose of being home to the Knox College Theological Seminary and the Connaught Laboratories, among others.

“This major revitalization of One Spadina will be the catalyst for a much needed transformation of the University’s western edge between College and Bloor, still recovering from the threat of plans to turn the street into an expressway, which was blocked over a generation ago.” said Professor Richard Sommer, Dean of the Daniels Faculty. “The project will consolidate U of T’s architecture, art, and urban design programs within one precinct, and provide a bridge from the University to the dynamic neighbourhoods beyond.”

The expansion of the historic building represents the largest architecture school expansion ever undertaken in Canada. A new exterior composed of glass, stone, and steel will preserve views of the heritage building’s grand turrets, while a contoured roof will harvest rainwater and bathe the building’s interior in natural light.

The University selected Tehrani as the architect, along with his former firm Office dA, through an international design competition. (Tehrani established his current firm NADAAA shortly after.) The Toronto firm Public Work, founded by Marc Ryan (former director at West 8 Toronto) and Adam Nicklin (former principal at DTAH), is working with NADAAA on the design of the site’s landscape. Adamson Associates and ERA Architects are also part of the larger team serving as executive and preservation architects, respectively.

The new building will include collaborative studio spaces, an advanced fabrication lab, a principal hall for major public events, and a public gallery. Additional program elements envisioned for the site include pavilions to be embedded in the landscape at the edge of the circle, which will house a series of research and public venues devoted to the design arts, architecture, and city-building. The pavilions will house the Global Cities Institute, a new cross-disciplinary research centre, as well as the Model Cities Theatre and Laboratory, where students, researchers, and the public can employ innovative technology to project alternate forms of urbanization for Toronto and other cities.

The pavilions will also provide space for a new Institute for Architecture and Human Health, which will anchor planned graduate programs in this field. A state-of-the-art green roof will provide an expanded site for the Faculty’s celebrated Green Roof Innovation Testing Laboratory (also known as the GRIT Lab).

The Daniels Faculty recently launched a $50 million fundraising campaign as part of the University’s Boundless campaign. In total, $45 million of this campaign goal has been earmarked toward the costs of the One Spadina project. The remaining $5 million will go toward student awards. Of the total campaign goal, $24 million remains to be raised.

The University also announced an additional personal contribution of $10 million from architect, developer and philanthropist John H. Daniels and his wife Myrna Daniels, adding to their $14 million gift that initiated planning for the expansion and named the Faculty in 2008. These two benefactions, totaling $24 million, are the largest gifts designated to architecture programs in Canadian history. Together, they will provide $19 million to the building project, and $5 million to the John and Myrna Daniels Scholars award program, which has so far recognized 27 students as the next generation of architects and designers to reimagine the buildings, landscapes, and cities of the 21st century.

In addition to the Daniels family’s personal benefactions, the company that carries their name, The Daniels Corporation, announced a donation of $1 million to the campaign, evenly divided between capital and The John and Myrna Daniels Scholars award program.

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