OCAD student designs transform desolate public space with Reassembly Required

In an exhibition opening at Toronto City Hall next week, Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD) students present their visions to revitalize one of the city’s major pedestrian thoroughfares, the plaza in front of Toronto Police Service 52 Division, on Dundas Street between St. Patrick and Simcoe Streets.


Reassembly Required is the result of OCAD’s annual design competition, where students were given approximately 97 hours — from Thursday afternoon until Monday evening (January 21 to 25, 2010) — to research, conceptualize and construct their solutions to a given challenge.


“Many students tell us that this experience was one of the highlights of their time at OCAD,” explains this year’s competition organizer Stuart Reid, Professor in the Faculty of Design. “The exhibition proves emerging OCAD designers have the tools to transform lacklustre urban space into accessible, functional and engaging space.”

In this year’s competition, Faculty of Design organizers carefully chose the site, a wide open, cemented “plaza” in front of the 52 Division Toronto Police Services building. With just the sidewalk, the street and the police station to use as boundaries, the challenge was immense: how might student design teams turn this forgotten city plaza into a functional, creative space that facilitates social experience?


The teams, each consisting of four to six students from both art and design faculties, were not left without inspiration. Will Alsop, British architect of OCAD’s famed Sharp Centre for Design, returned to the university for the competition’s pre-launch public lecture. Toronto City Councillor Adam Vaughan spoke to students as well, providing local perspective and context. Faculty of Design professors and guest volunteer critics provided mentoring and advice over the course of the weekend.


The resulting concepts are extraordinarily thoughtful, making use of materials like laminated glass to respond to differing lighting conditions, and techniques like recessing the walkway to help combat the strong wind tunnel created in the area. Other designs incorporate roof panels that change orientation with weather conditions. The designs offer Toronto residents a glimpse into the imaginative minds of the designers of tomorrow. Immersed as they are in the city’s downtown core, OCAD students are uniquely positioned to apply their creative problem-solving skills to its infrastructure.


Reassembly Required: Selections from OCAD’s 2010 Annual Design Competition will run in the first-floor rotunda at Toronto City Hall from March 15-19, 2010. An opening reception will be held on Tuesday, March 16 at 6:00pm (remarks at 6:30pm) with comments from Councillor Adam Vaughan (Ward 20 — Trinity–Spadina) and OCAD President Sara Diamond. All are welcome to attend.


For more information, please visit www.ocad.ca or call 416.977.6000.