Award of Excellence: New College Residence, University of Toronto

Toronto, Ontario

Saucier + Perrotte architectes

The New College Residence for the University of Toronto’s St. George campus will be located at the corner of Spadina Avenue and Willcocks Street, adjacent to the existing mixed use New College building. The new residence has been designed in the spirit of communal interaction, and to this end careful planning and flexibility of the common areas allows spaces to be used in a variety of ways for residents as well as the larger University body.

The 11,300 square metre, nine-storey high facility incorporates seven floors of residential rooms above a basement, ground floor and mezzanine level that accommodate a variety of public functions, including a large multi-purpose room for theatrical and public performances and quiet study halls below grade. The ground floor accommodates a generous lobby, while the mezzanine level contains administration offices and overlooks the lobby. On the upper floors, the residential rooms are organized into two linear bars, one along Spadina Avenue clad in brick and one facing a laneway clad in zinc panels. Between these two bars, a variety of communal spaces, such as study rooms, washrooms, and dining rooms accommodate the balance of living spaces.

Central to the experience of inhabiting the building are two “hanging gardens,” one on the second floor that relates to the laneway and one on the fifth floor that relates to Spadina Avenue. The two gardens, which are linked by an interior stair that runs through the building core, are meant to be used as exterior community rooms.

Fenestration is organized in an irregular, staccato pattern that animates the major building elevations, and the brick faade facing Spadina Avenue is further animated by subtle changes in plane.

Caruso: This is an ambitious project, making a virtue out of the possible over-development of its site. The basic premise of the two internal courtyards–the “hanging gardens”–and of one more open and another more closed faade, make sense on the site and sensibly organize the program. However, the architectural moves are not a concept. It is not clear to me what presence this building is wanting to have on Spadina Avenue and what vision of collective student living is being put forward. For me, the models and drawings do not help to answer these questions; they exaggerate the architecture of the project but do little to convey its spatial and material character.

Kapusta: The laminated layers of this student residence are broken open by a pair of “hanging gardens”–refreshingly public program elements that transcend a type that has become mechanically utilitarian in recent manifestations. The project is dense but responsive. The urban elevation is rendered in nicely composed brick panels, its lane faades tougher and more vertical in scaled zinc panels. The project is an interesting counterpoint to the existing New College building and its Aaltoesque juxtapositions, while retaining the spirit of the importance of landscape in such a highly urban context.

Saia: Exuberant and glamorous, intimate and welcoming, this residence is well-suited to its student clientele. Its conceptual response to a program gives it a soul. Nothing here is very complicated, however a striking architectural event animates the three volumes placed side-by-side. It consists of two suspended gardens that carry light, air, and life into the heart of the building. The stair that links them introduces a dynamic current to the ensemble. Moreover, the interesting oblique line that the stair cuts through the longitudinal section also works well in plan. The tightness of these stairs and the doors at each end (a code requirement) restrain their graceful flight. This, however, does not reduce their capacity to develop a rapport between two similar spaces and to extend one into the other. The bedroom windows, which clearly distinguish between ventilation and transparency, are sparkling little touches on the faade which avoid the monotony of their necessary repetition and which express the scale of the building. This project deserves its place on the University campus.

Client: University of Toronto/New College

Architect team: Gilles Saucier (design architect), Andr Perrotte (architect-in-charge), Sergio Morales, Maxime-Alexis Frappier, Nathalie Cloutier, Eric Dupras, Christian Hbert, Eric Majer, Deborah Mesher, Claudio Nunez, Quinlan Osborne, Pierre-Alexandre Rhaume, Sudhir Suri

Structural: Yolles Partnership Inc.

Mechanical/Electrical: H.H. Angus and Associates Limited

Model photographs: Saucier + Perrotte architectes

Budget: $15.6 million

Completion: July 2003