The University of Toronto to transform an iconic Toronto landmark into the new home of the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design

June 11, 2013

TORONTO — The University of Toronto unveiled its ambitious plans today to transform one of the most iconic sites in the city: One Spadina Crescent.

The building project will renew the south-facing 19th century Gothic Revival building and build out the unrealized northern face of the circle with a stunning work of contemporary architecture. Designed by Nader Tehrani, principal of the internationally acclaimed firm NADAAA, and his collaborator Katie Faulkner, the revitalized site will be the new home of the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design.

Originally built as a vista to the lake along Spadina Avenue — and later home to the Knox College Theological Seminary and the Connaught Laboratories — One Spadina Crescent is one of Toronto’s most prominent and historic addresses. Its renewal represents the largest architecture school expansion ever undertaken in Canada. When complete, the complex will be a focal point for education, research, and outreach on how to build more sustainable, beautiful, and socially just cities.

“This major revitalization of One Spadina will be the catalyst for a much needed transformation of the University’s western edge between College and Bloor, still recovering from the threat of plans to turn the street into an expressway, which was blocked over a generation ago.” said Professor Richard Sommer, Dean of the Daniels Faculty. “The project will consolidate U of T’s architecture, art, and urban design programs within one precinct, and provide a bridge from the University to the dynamic neighbourhoods beyond.”

The Daniels Faculty recently launched a $50 million fundraising campaign as part of the University’s Boundless campaign. In total, $45 million of this campaign goal has been earmarked toward the costs of the One Spadina project. The remaining $5 million will go toward student awards. Of the total campaign goal, $24 million remains to be raised.

The University also announced today an additional personal contribution of $10 million from architect, developer and philanthropist John H. Daniels (BArch 1950, LLD Hon. 2011) and his wife Myrna Daniels, adding to their $14 million gift that initiated planning for the expansion and named the Faculty in 2008. These two benefactions, totaling a remarkably generous $24 million, are the largest gifts designated to architecture programs in Canadian history. Together, they will provide $19 million to the building project, and $5 million to the John and Myrna Daniels Scholars award program, which has so far recognized 27 students as the next generation of architects and designers to reimagine the buildings, landscapes, and cities of the 21st century.

“John and Myrna Daniels are outstanding community builders, in every sense of the word,” said Professor David Naylor, President of the University of Toronto. “Their generosity and vision have again accelerated the Daniels Faculty in its rise to ever greater national and international prominence.  The new facilities made possible by their latest benefaction will be a true landmark — an inspired repurposing of a unique site and a storied heritage building. I cannot imagine any use for One Spadina Crescent that could be more fitting than as a home for educating future generations of leading Canadian architects and designers.”

Complementing these extraordinary personal benefactions, The Daniels Corporation Senior Vice President Tom Dutton announced on behalf of the company’s management team and staff that The Daniels Corporation will contribute $1 million to the campaign, evenly divided between capital and The John and Myrna Daniels Scholars award program.

“The Daniels Corporation is thrilled to be part of this historic transformation,” said Tom Dutton, Senior Vice President of The Daniels Corporation. “My colleagues and I take great pride in our company’s history of innovation in the Greater Toronto Area, and we have always taken our lead from our founder. Through the dedicated and collaborative work of the entire team at The Daniels Corporation, we are able to support a world leading faculty of architecture, landscape, and design right in the heart of the city and we can’t think of a more fitting tribute to John’s visionary leadership than supporting students and revitalizing a building.”

The expansion of the historic building will be an exemplar of sustainable building and creative urban design practices. A new exterior composed of glass, stone, and steel will preserve views of the heritage building’s grand turrets, while a contoured roof will harvest rainwater and bathe the building’s interior in natural light.

The University selected Tehrani as the architect, along with his former firm Office dA, through an international design competition. (Tehrani established his current firm NADAAA shortly after.) A recognized innovator, Tehrani’s work has received many prestigious awards for both design and sustainability, including 14 Progressive Architecture Awards. The Toronto firm Public Work, founded by Marc Ryan (former director at West 8 Toronto) and Adam Nicklin (former principal at DTAH), is working with NADAAA on the design of the site’s landscape. Adamson Associates and ERA Architects are also part of the larger team serving as executive and preservation architects, respectively.  

The new building will include collaborative studio spaces, an advanced fabrication lab, a principal hall for major public events, and a public gallery. Additional program elements envisioned for the site include pavilions to be embedded in the landscape at the edge of the circle, which will house a series of research and public venues devoted to the design-arts, architecture, and city-building. The pavilions will house the Global Cities Institute, a new cross-disciplinary research centre, as well as the Model Cities Theatre and Laboratory, where students, researchers, and the public can employ innovative technology to project alternate forms of urbanization for Toronto and other cities.

The pavilions will also provide space for a new Institute for Architecture and Human Health, which will anchor planned graduate programs in this field. A state-of-the-art green roof will provide an expanded site for the Faculty’s celebrated Green Roof Innovation Testing Laboratory (also known as the GRIT Lab).

“Remaking our built environments to address social, environmental, and economic challenges requires new kinds of thinking, research, and collaboration,” said Professor Sommer. “Our students and faculty are pushing new boundaries and leading change. The Daniels Faculty’s new home at One Spadina will be the platform for developing creative approaches to designing the built environment into the future.”  


For more information contact:

Dale Duncan, Communications Officer
John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design
University of Toronto