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.
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.
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.
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.