October 26, 2008
by Canadian Architect
Diamond and Schmitt Architects have renovated and renewed the Gerstein Reading Roomin the University of Toronto’s Gerstein Science Information Centre revealing the room’s stunning ceiling and architectural features. A dropped ceiling had hidden the room’s hand-carved wood trusses, rafters and a dramatic glass skylight for almost 100 years. Diamond and Schmitt Architects discovered the spectacular ceiling after they were commissioned to renovate the heritage wing of the library, constructed in 1892.
“No one at the University could remember the ceiling ever being exposed and after some digging we discovered it was covered up during a renovation in the early 1900s. At that time metal cross-bracing was installed to support the ceiling trusses. We believe that the cross-bracing was considered unsightly and thus, covered up,” says Diamond and Schmitt Principal Gary McCluskie. “By integrating the bracing into the design of the ceiling our team was able to expose the stunning woodwork and skylight above.”
Despite being unseen for almost a century, the ceiling was in remarkable condition. Structural beams, arches and trusses were stabilized and where needed, reinforced. The neo-gothic carved details of the woodwork arches, columns, rafters and repetitive decorative details were cleaned and are now visible from below. The Reading Room includes study space for 100 people with new lighting, furniture and shelving. This renovation, funded by the generous donation of the Frank Gerstein Charitable Foundation and the Bertrand Gerstein Family Foundation, is part of a larger transformation of the original University Library, which also includes upgrades to the administrative offices, the Marvin Gerstein Conference Room and new graduate and group study space on the second floor of the Heritage Wing.
Diamond and Schmitt Architects are also responsible for the Morrison Pavilion at the Gerstein Science Information Centre which involved the addition of 650 study spaces over four levels on the east side of the building. Principal Gary McCluskie, Associate Branka Gazibara and architect Steven Bondar lead the Diamond and Schmitt team.
Well-known for their work on cultural, civic and academic buildings Diamond and Schmitt Architects also have extensive experience with sympathetic heritage renovation projects as well as the adaptive reuse of historic structures. These projects include the restoration and expansion of Symphony Hall in Detroit, the award-winning Visitor Orientation Centre on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, restoration and renovations to the Ontario Legislative Assembly at Queen’s Park, the Grand Theatre in Kingston, Ontario, the Canadian Chancery in Prague and the current restoration of the Heritage City Hall in Cambridge, Ontario.