RAIC calls on government to reconsider plans to relocate Ontario Science Centre

Photo by James Brittain

The RAIC recently composed a letter to Premier Ford expressing their concerns over the Ontario Government’s plans to move the Ontario Science Centre.

“This letter is to express our concerns with the Ontario Government’s plans to move the Ontario Science Centre, as announced on April 18, 2023. We respectfully request a meeting at the earliest convenience to discuss this issue,” reads the letter.

“The RAIC urges the Province of Ontario to pause and reconsider their plans to relocate the Ontario Science Centre and any demolition of this iconic architectural landmark.”

The three concerns highlighted in the letter include sustainability, architectural design excellence, and social impact and community engagement.

It notes that the Ontario Science Centre building, which first opened in 1969, is in need of repairs according to John Carmichael, chair of the centre’s board of trustees. While infrastructure minister Kinga Surma has stated that there is a business case to build a new Science Centre at Ontario Place as a more cost-effective alternative, the RAIC argues that larger sustainability considerations should lead the government to invest in improvements at its current location.

“Given the Ontario government’s Made-In-Ontario Environment Plan, it is its responsibility to innovate solutions that address building renewal, avoid demolition and fulfil the goals of reducing waste that goes to landfill, safe clean water, protecting air, species and natural spaces, climate change, holding polluters accountable and balanced infrastructure and environmental protection,” reads the letter.

“The built environment demands around 40 per cent of the world’s extracted materials while waste from demolition and construction represents the largest single waste stream in many countries. In Canada, the buildings sector is the third-largest source of emissions, therefore prioritizing decarbonization, i.e., reducing or ending emissions into the atmosphere, is key to meeting zero-emission objectives.”

The letter noted that evidence indicates that renovation projects usually save between 50–75 per cent of embodied carbon emissions compared to constructing a new building, which is especially true if the foundations and structure are already preserved.

As a result, the RAIC is calling for the government to pause this relocation project and consider the most environmentally responsible approach. It ask the government to focus on retrofitting and repurposing what is already in existence with the latest environmental technologies, while conserving resources and historic value.

The RAIC also stands with Moriyama Teshima Architects, the Toronto Society of Architects and many others who have underscored the importance of the Centre as a cultural institution in the local community. “This institution serves as a critical community hub and is among the few large-scale cultural institutions outside of the city centre. The Ontario Science Centre is a mutual place of significance for many Ontarians,” reads the letter. “The RAIC is unaware of any previous consultation sessions on this topic, and urges the Province to engage Ontarians to participate in a conversation about the future of the Ontario Science Centre. The Ontario Science Centre is a landmark and cultural institution that is significant to Canada.”

The letter goes on to note that the Ontario Science Centre is a “precious part” of Ontario and Canada’s award-winning architecture, and is one of several landmarks throughout the country that commemorates Canada’s centennial. “It was designed to suit its location, adapting to the fluctuating levels of the Don River ravine and creating an irreplaceable link between the building and the landscape,” reads the letter.

In conclusion, the RAIC calls for the government to renew this historic facility and recognize its importance as a reflection of our government and this generation’s commitment to design excellence.