PanAm/Parapan Games Athletes’ Village/Canary District is one of the recent projects of Architects Alliance (aA) (all images courtesy aA)

Two of North America’s leading architects to design ‘dramatic new gateway’ between U of T and the city

Two of North America’s leading architectural firms will be designing the University of Toronto’s new Centre for Civilizations and Cultures, to be located at 90 Queen’s Park Crescent.  

Toronto’s Architects Alliance and New York-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro will collaborate on the project, which will be located just south of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), beside the U of T faculties of Law and Music, said Scott Mabury, U of T’s vice-president of university operations.

“This site will act as a dramatic new gateway connecting the university and the city,” Mabury added.  “These two firms are responsible for some of the most exciting and inventive architectural projects in recent years. We are all looking forward to seeing their vision for the Centre for Civilizations and Cultures.”  

In keeping with U of T’s focus on city building, the project will include improvements for all Torontonians – including a new plaza for the Museum subway station entrance and improved connections between Queen’s Park and Philosopher’s Walk. Contributing to Toronto’s well-earned reputation as a city that embraces tolerance, inclusion and pluralism, the Centre is designed to generate greater understanding and awareness of the complex relations between civilizations and cultures.  

The university’s department of history, department of Near and Middle Eastern civilizations, Institute of Islamic Studies, and the research arm of the Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies, as well as a new 250-seat performance hall for the Faculty of Music, will all be housed in the Centre.  

“The Centre for Civilizations and Cultures will bring together U of T’s impressive strength in these key disciplines, enabling us to make an even greater contribution to cross-cultural understanding, here and around the world,” said U of T President Meric Gertler. “The project will also make an important contribution to city-building in Toronto, conceived and designed to create wonderful new spaces in one of Canada’s leading cultural and academic precincts.”  

The Jewish Museum of Canada, in cooperation with UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, originally part of the initial planning for the project, has decided that it will not be going forward at this time. “U of T is grateful to UJA Federation for their enthusiasm and interest in partnering with the University on the project. In the meantime, we will continue to work with the UJA Federation on existing partnerships on the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies,” said David Palmer, the university’s vice-president of advancement.

The two architectural firms will bring both global vision and local knowledge of urban cultural needs to the project, Mabury said. Diller Scofidio + Renfro has worked on the redesign of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the High Line linear park, among other projects. Architects Alliance (aA) is most recently responsible for the PanAm/Parapan Games Athletes’ Village/Canary District in Toronto. No stranger to U of T, aA was part of the team that designed the Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research (see image below) and also worked on the Woodsworth Student Residence and Classroom Complex.

Mabury said the university will consult with U of T and local communities and the City of Toronto as well as neighbouring cultural institutions, as it develops the project plan for the new Centre for Civilizations and Cultures. The 90 Queen’s Park site is the site of the former McLaughlin Planetarium, which was originally part of the Royal Ontario Museum, and was closed in 1995. U of T purchased the site from the ROM in 2009. 

(Image below: the Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research at U of T)

photo of Donnelly Centre

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