Award of Merit: 51 Division

Toronto, Ontario

Dunlop Architects Inc.

This project offers an alternative to suburban expansion by making use of a 2.5-acre derelict brownfield site close to Toronto’s historic Cork Town district. The police station contributes to the urban fabric that includes the rapidly developing Gooderham and Worts and St. Lawrence neighbourhoods, and is surrounded by Trinity Church, the historic Enoch Turner Schoolhouse, residential town houses and mid-rise loft condominiums.

Efforts were made to reuse as much as possible of the existing building, a historically designated gas purification plant constructed in 1898. The establishment of public spaces in the police station depends on the old masonry structure. The police services program comprises spaces for administration, primary response units, community response units, criminal investigations, forensic investigation, detention facilities, support spaces and exhibition and community areas.

A semi-transparent metal mesh screen circumscribes a landscaped buffer and establishes the new facility’s relationship with its neighbours, presenting a softer edge to the community along two streets. A primary vertical plane passes through the existing building, making use of the original site and building as a blank canvas. The space between the plane and the walls of the existing shell is used to establish a lobby and public corridor, thus making public access pass from interior to exterior. The detention block counters the existing building shell, which sits securely within the site’s core. Travelling through the fabric of the original walls, new interventions comprise north-south planes, and fragments permeate the perimeter plane appearing on the public elevations. Program functions are plugged into the volumes between these north-south planes.

Vehicular parking is limited to encourage public transit use, and the site is located across from a streetcar hub with connections to the subway system. Efforts have been made to reduce the amount of displaced landfill, so the facility will not have a basement or underground garage, and caisson foundations are used in lieu of strip footings.

Caruso: This project is exemplary at a strategic level. To imagine a new police station as a sort of urban garden is an amazing idea. In the place of any kind of representational rhetoric, the site is laid out in a spatially open and pragmatic way. The manner in which the existing building is enmeshed within the new ensemble is also impressive. The presence of the building as a significant landmark is understood and sustained by the garden strategy. The existing fabric is also handled in a robust way, so that its footprint is seamlessly incorporated into the overall plan.

My reservations concern details. The public corridor that runs the length of the existing building is a clich. The long, low faades that encircle the site are over-elaborated, contradicting the airy confidence of the urban concept. These criticisms notwithstanding, the client and architects should be congratulated for challenging long-held preconceptions of what a police station is.

Kapusta: It’s always nice to see that evolutionary steps in the social structure of organizations–in this case, a transition into community policing–can have a satisfying parallel in urban form. The long-awaited adaptive re-use of a century-old gas purification building in Toronto’s west end is at the heart of the station. You could almost give the project an award for not fashioning itself on the model of police stations past (the last significant downtown station was the ponderous granite mass of the Metropolitan Toronto Police Headquarters built in the late 1980s at College and Bay Streets). By contrast, this station is nicely scaled and broken down in terms of its massing. It’s an encouraging incremental first step into the problematic no-man’s land known as Ataratiri, and a hopeful sign that, rather than trying to take on the whole brownfield site in an unwieldy block, it will be broken down and developed as demand and technology make its barriers more manageable.

Saia: This project distinguishes itself because it is eminently urban. In effect a complete urban block is re-thought as a whole which encompasses all spaces–interior as well as exterior. Beside the old gas purification building, as sober as the new addition might be, it does nothing less than reformulate a whole other organization that appropriates the previous construction–creating what is referred to in the presentation text as a “palimpsest.”

In relation to the proposal of the concept plan, the visitor parking of the developed plan clips too much off of the public zone. On the other hand, the high hall, followed by the canyon-like corridor, will certainly have panache.

Client: Toronto Police Service

Architect team: Michael Moxam, Tom Kyle, Joseph Troppmann, Janet Gasparotto

Structural: Carruthers & Wallace Limited

Mechanical: Smith & Andersen Consulting Engineers

Electrical: Mulvey + Banani International Inc.

Landscape: Colt 4 Studio

Heritage: E.R.A. Architects

Model: Tyler Sharp, David Battersby, Heather Howat

Budget: withheld

Completion: June 2003