A long-standing interest in challenging the boundaries between public and private — between community and university — informs this Graduate Student Housing project. Located on the edge of the University of Toronto’s campus, bordering a bustling urban district, the building establishes a gateway to the campus and an iconic identity for the University.
The massing and exterior articulation responds to both contingent site characteristics and to intense programmatic needs. Organized around an open central courtyard, each of the building elements corresponds to the scale of its adjacencies. The two main components, a ten-story block on the eastern edge of the site and a seven-story block along the western edge, wrap and engage one another. Skip-stop elevator configurations allow for a higher density within the building envelope than would a standard double-loaded corridor, while also providing additional space for student rooms that benefit from through-ventilation via windows that overlook both city and courtyard. At street level there are retail spaces that form an urban node to augment public activity and connect this campus entry point with the surrounding city.
Along the top floors of the western wing, a glazed light bar, visible for miles, projects beyond the building’s edge to terminate at the halfway point across Harbord Street, forty five feet above ground- level. The final steel “O” of the glazed corridor’s “UNIVERSITY OF TORONT_” sign dangles from the end, registering a shift from two dimensions to three and from ground to figure. The trajectory of this elevated, human-scaled cornice breaks through the boundary between private and public, defining a threshold that may stimulates further consideration of the University’s civic role and of the boundaries between institution and city.