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Construction begins on Highland Hall at the University of Toronto Scarborough


October 11, 2016
by Canadian Architect

Image courtesy of University of Toronto Scarborough.

Image courtesy of University of Toronto Scarborough.

Work is under way to bring a new front door to the University of Toronto Scarborough campus. Construction has begun on what is tentatively being called Highland Hall, a new $52-million building designed by Perkins+Will, located between the Student Centre and the new arrival court that faces Military Trail from the campus.

“It’s bringing a front door to a place that doesn’t have one,” says UTSC’s Chief Administrative Office Andrew Arifuzzaman. The five-storey building will house UTSC’s Recruitment and Registrar’s offices, and provide a new home for the social sciences department that will include modern labs, classrooms, study spaces and a multi-use space that can accommodate up to 600 students. UTSC’s entrepreneurial centre, The Hub, will also relocate to the building.

Image courtesy of University of Toronto Scarborough.

Image courtesy of University of Toronto Scarborough.

The new building, which will cover 134,216 square-feet (12,469 sq. metres) once it opens, has received philanthropic support totalling $1.3-million from three UTSC alumni including Mark Krembil of the Krembil Foundation, as well as husband and wife Adam Watson and Yien-Ha Watson. Paramount Fine Foods has also contributed. The campus is also partnering with the Hammer Heads Program – a construction apprenticeship program for youth from under-resourced communities. “It’s a way of building and retaining wealth in the community,” says Arifuzzaman.

The concept for Highland takes inspiration from UTSC’s native topography and the dramatic qualities of John Andrew’s original campus architecture to create a bold new presence along Military Trail and to define a spatial gateway to The South Campus. Perkins+Will’s design will transform R-Wing, the site of the former campus gymnasium, into a new locus of learning, research and social activity. A series of public space connections will weave through the design, integrating new and renovated spaces into a seamless whole while offering new accessible routes through the campus. The most significant of these spaces, “the Ravine” will connect the various levels of academic and student activity, supporting the formation of new communities  amongst the buildings diverse occupants.

Image courtesy of University of Toronto Scarborough.

Image courtesy of University of Toronto Scarborough.

John Andrew’s originally framed the north edge of Highland Creek ravine with two striking architectural statements. The Humanities Wing was articulated as a series of terraced levels which stepped toward the ravine and the Science Wing as a series of terraces stepping away from the ravine. This flipping of the architectural strategies relative to the landscape and the building’s internal public realm created unique spatial conditions and established distinct natures for the spaces of scientific and humanistic study. The architecture of Highland hall echoes and combines these Architectural manipulations into a series of volumes that are stacked, offset and twisted. In sharp contrast to the rugged concrete Architecture of the John Andrew’s buildings, Highland Hall’s volumes are clad in a sleek brushed aluminum and glass skin that refracts and reflects light. The result is series of shimmering metallic volumes that are offset and twisted to sculpt a new façade for the campus.

Image courtesy of University of Toronto Scarborough.

Image courtesy of University of Toronto Scarborough.

An animated public realm is created between an existing gymnasium and a new academic tower. Like the natural ravine which borders Highland Creek, this space expands and contracts in plan and section acknowledging the need to move people quickly through the building as well as creating “eddies” – spaces for interaction and exchange at every one of the building’s six levels. A series of attenuated wood clad stairs describe a playful assent through the naturally lit space, offering stops at shared lounge and interaction zones.

Image courtesy of University of Toronto Scarborough.

Image courtesy of University of Toronto Scarborough.

The articulation of the new academic tower into a series of offset volumes is most pronounced at the West face of the building where the upper two floors project out over a landscaped plaza to frame a dramatic new gateway to the South Campus.  A cluster of playfully placed concrete columns rise up three stories from the plaza evoking the native forest. To articulate the building’s role as a campus gateway, a pair of graphic murals integrated into the glass façade will depict abstracted maps of the region’s urban geography while mitigating solar heat gain to the spaces within.

The building is expected to open in 2018.



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