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ARC2014: Design Studio 4

For "Design Studio 4," also known as comprehensive studio, graduate architecture students were required to design a major building, taking into account its tectonic assertion, performance, site, and surroundings. All students were given the same design prompt: they were to create a new theatre for Toronto's Port Lands — an industrial, rapidly evolving district located on the city's eastern waterfront. The flood-prone site presented difficult challenges that each student group overcame in unique ways.

Michael Tam and James Noh

Michael and James designed a "Crystal Theatre," surrounded by marshland and prism-shaped berms, to control flooding. "In plan," they write, "the building takes on a crystal-like organization comprised of four different masses. The communal gathering space becomes the main focal point for the overall structure, while the two theatres sit beside the main area, with grand views towards the water and the city skyline."

"The exterior finish of the overall building consists of a four-faced, prism-like module. Consideration to natural light and visual comfort is heavily controlled, as the prisms on each façade are selectively placed."

Instagram: michaeltmk and james_n0h

(Instructor: Sam Dufaux)


Damian Kercz and Lina Kostoff

Damian and Lina titled their design "LandLoch."

"LandLoch extends the Waterfront Trail as a part of the building, much like an arm clasping the shore," they write. "This extension connects to existing Harbourfront infrastructure, helping to supersede the typical yet circuitous route one would normally need to take. The introduction of this seemingly floating promenade begins to establish a relationship between the project and both ground and water. Three district relationships are created: on water, above water, and on land."

Instagram: dakercz and

(Instructor: Sam Dufaux)


Eisa Hayashi and Jessica Ho

This project is called "LAKESCAPE." Eisa and Jessica write: "As one walks along the causeway, they will experience the various changes in elevation in relation to the water level. Eventually, they will be guided towards the open outdoor theatre, where they can view this immersive water at eye level."

The structure is partly camouflaged by dichroic film on the façade glazing, as well as polished chrome cladding, both of which reflect the surrounding marshland.

Instagram: eisahayashi and j_archo

(Instructor: Sam Dufaux)


Laraib Qasim and Amaka Amadi

Laraib and Amaka's proposed theatre is made of mass timber, with copper cladding that will develop a patina as it ages and weathers. "As time continues to pass, human intervention and natural weathering conditions change the site and theatre, allowing them both to age," they write. "The site embraces the industrial character of the Port Lands site and aims to utilize everything from the wrecked pavement to the desolate space. It is left untreated, but undergoes a process of excavation closest to the water, to create mounds of rubble that play the role of outdoor sitting spaces."

Instagram: laraib_qa and amakamarlene

(Instructor: Sam Dufaux)


Peiyun Liu and Fibi Pan

Peiyun and Fibi's design is made up of a cluster of what they call "silos."

"The size of each singular silo is determined based on the program it is housing," they write. "Moreover, the composition of the circles is formed by using either merge, overlap, or separation between the shapes according to their programmatic purposes. To further accentuate the view, the roof of the building is cut through by a single curve that blends the cylinders together elegantly while also creating a visual tunnel aiming at two tall landmarks of the city, the CN Tower and the Hearn Generating Station.

Instagram: peiyunnl and itsfibi

(Instructor: Sam Dufaux)


Nick Makhalik

Nick's design is titled "Ribbon."

"Through the process of SNAP, RAM, DIG, and SCULPT, the landform emerges from the water," Nick writes, "with explicit reactions to its natural setting and cultural opportunity. The building then materializes from within the landform, using a series of walls created from sited rammed earth, expressed as one grand volume from the exterior. During the day, the walls showcase the grandeur of the artificial manipulation of the Toronto Harbour, with the tallest point mirroring the quay’s edge into the lake’s bedrock. And at night, the walls become alive with light, as millions of inset LEDs perform as an orchestra of colour and expression, displaying their own light shows throughout the perimeter of the form."

Instagram: nick.makhalik

(Instructor: Sam Dufaux)


Melanie Lo and Tim Lai

"'Grotto' [...] harnesses natural patterns of erosion to build a new site for a theatre facility," Melanie and Tim write. "Inspired by the concept of erosion, and reacting to the dynamic, ever-changing nature of the site, the entire building functions completely lifted from the ground. Therefore, a complete rethinking of the traditional 'ground up' approach is necessary. The new project datum is reset to operate from 'top down,' where the differing heights of particular programs dictate the cavernous spatial quality of the underside."

(Instructor: Pina Petricone)


Connor Stevens and Saaraa Premji

Connor and Saaraa designed a two-part structure: one part on land, the other on a floating barge. The two parts can be physically separated for dramatic effect. “When together, 'Come Back, Theatre' and 'Still Here, Theatre' form an outdoor performance space that amplifies the interstitial experience of being between both buildings," they write. "When apart, the facade pulls away to reveal that something is missing from each.”

(Instructor: Pina Petricone)


Lara Hassani and Neil Vas

“For 57 years, the Atlas crane has stood and worked in the Port Lands," Lara and Neil write. "Waterfront TO’s 'revitalization' proposal calls for an entirely new landscape on that site, and for the crane to be preserved as a relic of a bygone age. We imagine that the crane has something to say about that: it does not consider itself a relic, and it can’t believe that you didn’t ask it first. It’s always been a bit theatrical. Along the lines of the Metabolist tradition, the crane becomes an active agent in the construction and operation of its future.”

(Instructor: Pina Petricone)


Alexia Harvey and Bronte Morris-Poolman

Alexia and Bronte write that their project's built form "invites visitors to take on the role of actors within the narrative of the building and the water to become a dynamic set. Protruding boxes on the north façade along with the dynamic ramp, expansive lobby space, and balconies become opportunities to heighten the theatricality of all life within the building.”

(Instructor: Steven Fong)


Juliette Cook and Julie-Anne Starling

Julie-Anne and Juliette envisioned their theatre as part of a site-wide matrix of other attractions, like piers, sculpture parks, and plazas. They write: “Visitors can inhabit a space where the boundaries between landscape, architecture and art are blurred. A wander through the space emphasizes an informal, abstract visual experience of theatre, conveyed through reflections, shadows, and splaying of light.”

(Instructor: Steven Fong)


Jeremy Fung and George Xing

Jeremy and George write: “Our architectural design explores the tension between nature and industry in the Port Lands by juxtaposing the recreational park experience with the architectural program of the theatre. The theatre is a linear series of small buildings that are sheltered by a loose-fit tubular industrial shed with an integrated pier-like boardwalk that treads lightly on a naturalized landscape.”

(Instructor: Steven Fong)