Architect selected for University of Toronto’s John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design expansion

The John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design at the University of Toronto announced that a design team led by Boston-based architectural firm Office dA has been chosen to transform its facilities.


Led by partners Monica Ponce de Leon and Nader Tehrani, Office dA represents a new breed of designers who create beautifully crafted works of architecture that seamlessly integrate green technology and aesthetic refinement. The firm has designed award-winning projects around the world.


“Monica Ponce de Leon and Nader Tehrani are not only among the most innovative and accomplished young practitioners in North America, but are also distinguished educators,” said Professor Richard M. Sommer, dean of the Faculty. “Their approach to the project and their scheme masterfully balance the need to create an internal life and coherence for student-centred, studio-based studies with a requirement that the school become a better platform for engaging the public on issues of architecture, landscape architecture and urbanism.”


With a venerable history of professional design education in Canada, the Daniels Faculty was renamed in 2008 to recognize the historic gift by alumnus John Daniels and his wife, Myrna Daniels, directed at renewing its facilities as well as providing financial support to students. With the Daniels gift, an ambitious campaign has been launched to secure other significant gifts from those with an interest in advancing the art of architecture, landscape architecture and urban design.


Earlier this year the Faculty began a search to select an architectural team to design a project that would address the accelerated growth of its programs and research endeavors, as well as situate new technologies and laboratories that would allow Daniels to remain at the forefront of design education.


Office dA’s concept was selected after successfully meeting the criteria for originality, technical and aesthetic innovation and sustainability.


“Of the commissions one could have the honour of being bestowed, this is one of the greatest; where questions of pedagogy and design come into direct contact, confluence and friction,” Tehrani said. “It is a rare occasion when one’s client is one’s best collaborator and fiercest critic all at once, and thus we look forward to this as a significant opportunity and a design challenge.”


The project will integrate high-performance environmental elements in the façade with revitalized interior spaces in the Daniels building. Key features include a new auditorium, a vertical telescoping atrium, upgraded studio and meeting spaces, a rooftop library and adjoining greened terrace with views of downtown Toronto. The scheme aspires to meet the highest possible standards of environmental sustainability and performance. The Daniels building is located at the southwest threshold of U of T’s St. George Campus.


Office dA’s design will help advance the Faculty’s ambition to become a focal point at U of T for research and speculation on better ways to design and inhabit the built environment.


Office dA’s recent projects include the Fleet Library at the Rhode Island School of Design, the Tongxian Arts Center in Beijing, an intergenerational housing centre in Chicago, the first LEED-certified large residential project in Boston and a Canada-US border station.


The firm has received notable acclaim for its work, including an award in architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and nine Progressive Architecture Awards in architecture and urban design. Recently, the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum honored Office dA with the prestigious National Design Award in architecture.


Ponce de Leon is dean of the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan. Tehrani is professor of architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Toronto firm Adamson Associates is the architect of record on the project and Coen + Partners of New York/Minneapolis is the landscape architect.


An ongoing display of Office dA’s conceptual design is on view in the alcove of the Eric Arthur Gallery, John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at 230 College Street in Toronto.