For this new metrolinx infrastructure project the architects were commissioned to design the structure and enclosure for a new generator building that services union station. The project is located immediately adjacent to the historic scott interlocking street signal tower, and replaces an existing generator that has come to the end of its life and will be de-commissioned.
The scott interlocking street signal tower was designed in 1930 for the canadian pacific railway (c.p.r.) By john wilson orrock, the chief engineer of buildings. This tower is one of three signal towers built in toronto for the c.p.r. During the same era, the cherry street, scott street and john street interlocking signal towers. As such, this building has been treated as a significant piece of heritage infrastructure.
The new addition attempts to respect this historic building and bring a similar level of design attention to what are often overlooked but highly essentially pieces of hidden engineering and infrastructure in the city. The conceptual approach for this project uses a process of carefully analyzing the existing architecture to help guide and inform our positions regarding building scale, form, facade articulation, and attention to detail.
Found geometry and scale impact the size and shape of this small building with the aspiration of creating a highly functional piece of infrastructural architecture comprised of: a generator, a structural system, and a naturally ventilating skin that reflects the image of the existing building in terms of perception, footprint and facade composition.
The most important sustainable feature of this project is to maintain and add to the historic scott street interlocking signal tower. Further sustainable intiatives include: the building having been designed to have a naturally ventilated façade, where panels have been designed to be either open or closed in direct response to the ventilation and cooling requirements of the generator; that this building is essentially passive, as it is open air and has no heating or cooling requirements; that the building utilizes energy efficient led lighting throughout with daylight and occupant sensors to reduce the amount of energy used throughout the day; and that the reveal space between the old and new structures has been designed to allow for a green planted urban wall.
The primary concept for this building is to create, in essence, a duplicate, contemporary plan and facade that acts as a reflective complement to the existing heritage structure. Existing site parameters prevented the design team from simply making the full shell of the building match the foot print of the existing building. There was an existing generator element sitting between old and new structures that needed to be maintained during construction. As a response, the facade of the new structure has been stretched to create an abstract formal duplicate or reflection that honours the dimensions of the existing heritage building.
As means to draw inspiration from the existing heritage building, geometric characteristics have been identified, abstracted, and integrated into the architectural form of the new structure. This includes the faceted or scalloped shape of the existing roof line; and the arched windows found on each facade. These elements helped to formally articulate the way in which the elevation has been stretched, and the way in which the concrete reveal between old and new structures meets the ground.
RDHA was founded in 1919 and is located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is an award winning architectural practice specializing in institutional and community architecture, with particular expertise in Public Library design. RDHA is a 21 person firm, comprised of (8) Architects, (6) Intern Architects, (6) Architectural Technologists, and (1) Office Manager, led by four Directors; Tyler Sharp Bob Goyeche and Geoffrey Miller.
While the firm is one of the oldest practices in Canada, the new partners have transformed the firm over the last 10 years, redefining the office structure, the creative design process and the mission to produce Architecture of the highest calibre. In many ways, the firm feels and acts like a young emerging design studio whose 104 year legacy provides a solid backbone of technical and project management experience.