Alsop Architects’ radical design for the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD) in Toronto completed in summer 2004. Designed in collaboration with Toronto-based architects Robbie/ Young + Wright, the new building will be known as the Sharp Centre of Design in honour of its main benefactors Rosalie and Isadore Sharp. The remarkable ‘table top’ superstructure, that takes the form of a parallelepiped (9m high, 31m wide and 84m long), with striking black and white pixilated skin, stands 26 metres above the ground on 12 multi-coloured legs; five of them are finished in black to give a ‘slimming’ appearance. The optical illusion is further emphasized when, at night, the black legs being less visible, seem to disappear, adding to the dynamic effect of the building composition.
The structure provides two storeys of studio and teaching space and is connected to the existing facility below by an elevator and stair core that forms the central focus of the newly created entrance hall uniting the two halves of the existing College buildings at all levels.
This new space comprises a new four-storey Entrance Hall, which is entered through a full height glass façade, and a three-storey Great Hall on Level 2, where students and artists can exhibit their works. The structural concept of the table top is based on a system of linked transverse and longitudinal structural steel trusses that form the linear box-like shape of the table top. The two floor levels use a conventional framing system of steel columns and beams, steel and concrete floor deck that is, in turn, supported by the primary steel truss system. A wind tunnel test was undertaken to confirm wind load pressures on both primary structures and cladding elements.
The unique landmark development provides OCAD with an additional 6,215 sqm of space while at the same time creating a linkage between the College, the street and Grange Park to the west. This will be an important centre for social activity and a valuable gathering space for events, with a gallery, auditorium, café and conference centre immediately adjacent. The park will also benefit from the area’s regeneration and, it is expected, may eventually be home to more arts-related events.