Across U of T’s three campuses, new buildings are springing up and old ones are being spruced up to meet the demands of increasing enrolment and intensified research activity. The architects chosen to lead this building boom had a tough assignment: design structures that nurture 21st-century innovation, integrate them seamlessly within the historical setting, ensure they are environmentally friendly, keep them within the university’s budget and, of course, make them stunning to look at.
The six buildings featured here – Bahen Centre for Information Technology, Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, Erindale Hall at University of Toronto at Mississauga, Morrison Pavilion, Leslie L. Dan Pharmacy Building and University of Toronto at Scarborough Student Centre – are just a handful of the new structures that are transforming the campus landscape.
“There’s an extraordinarily high level of architectural ambition in all of these projects,” says Adrian DiCastri (BArch 1983), a partner at architectsAlliance of Toronto and one of the designers of the new Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research on the St. George campus. “When this round of buildings is completed, the university is going to have one of the highest concentrations of exciting new buildings in North America.”
Huge, glistening expanses of glass are a primary feature of many of the new structures. During the day, light floods through the windows, illuminating hives of intellectual and social activity. At night, when the surrounding stone and metal fades into the darkness, the glass glows from within and lights up the campus like huge floating lanterns. Most importantly, however, these transparent designs showcase wide-open spaces in which to study, teach, conduct research, eat and socialize. Space is a precious commodity during an enrolment boom on a scale not seen since the 1960s, when the baby boomers entered post-secondary institutions. The current flurry of construction is largely due to an influx of first-year students, which is fuelled by the echo baby boom, rising demand for higher education and the famous double cohort. (The term refers to the Grade 12 and 13 students in Ontario who graduated in summer 2003, when the province phased out Grade 13.) This year, the University of Toronto increased its undergraduate enrolment by 25 per cent to take in more than 10,000 first-year students.
Every one of the 10,000 new students needs space. So do their 50,000-plus fellow students. New residences opened on all three campuses this September, and more will open over the next few years. U of T at Scarborough opened a 230-bed residence this fall and has a 300-bed facility in the works. At U of T at Mississauga, 197 students just moved into new quarters. On the St. George campus, New College opened a 277-bed residence and Woodsworth College’s 373-bed facility will be ready next spring.
Libraries and academic-support centres are also getting a make-over. Some are being renovated, while others are extending their hours and bumping up services for the additional students. The newly completed $23-million Academic Resource Centre at Scarborough features one of the first digital libraries in Canada and a 500-seat lecture theatre.
Over the next decade U of T expects to hire more than 1,000 new faculty members to teach the growing student body, replace retiring professors and help expand the research enterprise. Leading-edge research facilities are crucial to recruitment, as is innovation. Mississauga’s $3.4-million Centre for Applied Biosciences and Biotechnology, which opened last fall, and the $35-million Communication, Culture and Information Technology Building, slated to open by next September, will attract students and researchers. Scarborough’s $16-million Management Building will enhance U of T’s reputation in business education.
Academic buildings of any kind are expensive, but especially pricey are structures that house high-tech programs. While the residences largely fund themselves through rental income, other capital projects have relied on private donations and a mix of federal and provincial funding. Alumni have kick-started some projects with gifts in the millions of dollars, while contributions of all sizes are helping equip
When the last bit of sawdust is swept away to reveal the gleaming glass structures, everyone involved – from the donors to the architects and construction workers – will no doubt take pride in what they have built together.