SITE AND HISTORY
In 2009, the University of Toronto’s Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design (DFALD) launched a competition to transform their existing building into a framework more relevant to their teachings and aspirations. By 2011 it was clear that the appropriate step would be relocating to a landmark position in the city, One Spadina Crescent, thus launching a two-phased approach to renovate and expand the iconic structure formerly known as Knox College.
The master plan for this 19th century site was developed through the analysis of anticipated use patterns and site ecology, with the aim of re-positioning the southwest corner of campus on-axis with the Lake, and creating a new identity for the Faculty. DFALD required a new working prototype of sustainability to accommodate a program for studio space, fabrication workshops, classrooms, offices, library, cafe, exhibition space, auditorium, and state of the art ‘urban theater’. Located on a busy urban artery, and circumscribed by a streetcar line, the circular site is an island amidst layers of urban activity.
Perhaps the great challenge of maintaining the Gothic heritage building has been the project’s greatest opportunity; the spires and edges of the historic Spadina Crescent create the ideal foil for a contemporary box with a deep floor plate requiring natural lighting. The folds of the roof aim to capture the sky, while the walls judiciously use glass to maximize views and minimize heat loss. Folds in the landscape, conceived in anticipation of future Phase 3 pavilions, provide opportunities for seating, bike storage, and micro-environments.
While the north-south axis is characterized by important symbolic relationships to the city, it is the east-west axis that is actually activated by daily pedestrian traffic, and thus, the site is bi-axially organized with strong markers on all faces. On the west edge, a more discreet arcade space is set up in a diminutive manner to address the smaller residential scale of the adjacent neighborhood. Meanwhile, a Public Plaza on the east face helps to connect the building to the campus as the school’s gallery opens up to this plaza. A landscape berm also flanks this space, taking advantage of its southern orientation to offer more seating. The entire renewed circle will include more amenities for both students and the public with improved circulation for pedestrians and cyclists.
The design of this building presents a case where problems of pedagogy come face to face with a physical environment that is inhabited and tested daily by an audience of experts, critics, teachers, practitioners, and students. While schools of architecture have seen some significant changes over time, they have also seen a good deal of typological and spatial variety, making them an open and rich terrain for speculation and research. For example, a voided slab structural system, produced from recycled canoes, addresses several sustainable and aesthetic goals of the project. Voided slabs allow exposed architectural concrete ceilings to span longer without downturn beams, and with a smaller carbon footprint. Because voided slabs are partially precast off-site, hydronic tubing for energy-efficient radiant heating and cooling is pre-installed in the factory.
INNOVATIVE STUDIO ROOF STRUCTURE
The roof of the building serves as a key architectural instrument: integrating day-lighting, hydrological control and structural optimization. As a Firth-of-Forth spanning system, two trusses cantilever from the stair cores on the east-west axis, while holding up an added oculus in the center. The structural configuration shapes the skylights, while also providing for the slopes that drain the rainwater towards the east and west drains-- and down to a cistern system on each side of the building. The silhouette of the east and west facades are a reflection of the hydrological organization of the roof system: drawing the water down a central downspout that serves as a reveal between the original building and the new addition. In essence, we have abstracted the neo-gothic features of the existing structure as the basis for manipulation and extension. Using high strength, thin panel concrete, we translate the load-bearing aesthetic of the existing building into a curtain wall building, radicalizing its thinness. The renovation and expansion embodies a sustainable design focused on the context of the city and dynamic use patterns over time through utilization efficiency, energy/water/material efficiency, properly insulated building fabric, indoor environmental quality, landscape and urbanity.
Project baseline objectives are twofold: (1) rehabilitate the landscape, architecture and urban significance of Toronto’s Spadina Circle, through efficient reuse of existing elements and complementary addition of new forms; (2) demonstrate the Daniels Faculty’s objective of overt sustainability through the progressive deployment of materials and systems. The envelope of the heritage building is upgraded to increase thermal resistance and air-tightness. While the new addition will achieve LEED Gold, its ambition is to go “beyond LEED” with innovative systems that reduce energy consumption while serving as pedagogical tools.
The performance target of 50% below Canada’s model energy code is supported by the integration of engineered systems, building form and occupant culture. Data on resource consumption will be interpreted via “dash-board” interface to enable students to understand and manage their consumption behavior. Building science faculty and students will benchmark performance against peers and expectations as part of the Faculty’s sustainability curriculum. The Landscape department will utilize the planted roof areas for their Green Roof Innovation Testing research program, monitoring the environmental performance of the vegetated and photovoltaic roofscape.
NADAAA is a Boston and New York based architecture and urban design firm led by principal designer Nader Tehrani, in collaboration with partners Katherine Faulkner and Daniel Gallagher. NADAAA is a platform for design investigation at a large scale and with a great geographic reach. NADAAA's projects range in scale from furniture to architecture and urban design, with a focus on craft, construction, and digital fabrication. NADAAA'S staff of twenty designers brings expertise from academia, graphic design, construction, and business. The firm has received the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award in Architecture, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Architecture Award, the Harleston Parker Award, the Hobson Award, numerous AIA AWARDS, and 16 Progressive Architecture awards. Since 2013, NADAAA has been ranked among the Top 3 Design Firms in the U.S. in Architect Magazine's Top 50 Firms List.