UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
Toronto, Ontario (2015–2016)
The landscape in this 30-acre historic precinct at the University of Toronto is currently cluttered with traffic and over 300 parked cars, creating dangerous conflicts among pedestrians, bicycles, and motor vehicles. Sovereignty is restored to King’s College Circle by relocating parking to an underground garage and removing all but service, emergency, and ceremonial drop-off vehicles. Two new entry pavilions link the underground arrival’s court with the reimagined surface and function as new social hubs for the campus.
Our approach to the site is four-pronged. King’s College Circle is clarified with light-handed strategic improvements that embrace the simple timelessness of a common green. Historic campus structures are complemented with contemporary approaches to program, materials, and planting that create new spaces celebrating innovation and diversity while preserving the democratic core. Landscape is used as a connective tissue to improve way-finding and encourage spontaneous encounters, with a particular emphasis on accessibility to create a shared experience and sense of inclusion for all users. Finally, the university is reconnected to its surrounding neighborhoods by bolstering throughways and extending the language of the campus to the edge, inviting the city in.
The physical richness of the site’s historic buildings comes largely from subtle variations in material, particularly natural stone. To reflect the same enduring quality in the landscape, small granite units in a range of tones are used as the primary paving material. Inspired by the roof of University College, the scheme uses concentrations of naturally green- and purple-hued stone to overlay various patterns on the basic unit structure—patterns that add interest but also help subtly direct circulation. The edges of the space, which cumulatively account for a larger portion of the site than the central green itself, are intended to invite occupation and encourage lingering in areas that currently serve as mere thoroughfares.