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NEWS: Cities trump space (May 2019)

May 28th, 2019 · No Comments

U of T School of Cities build to replace McLaughlin Planetarium

Architects’ rendering of the new U of T building to be erected on the site of the Planetarium. COURTESY DILLER SCOFIDIO + RENFRO

By Ahmed Hagar

The University of Toronto announced a new building project on 90 Queen’s Park Crescent to be named the Centre for Cities and Civilizations. The nine-storey building will provide a space for several departments in the Faculty of Arts and Science, such as the Near and Middle East Civilizations, the Faculty of Music, and the Faculty of Law. It will also be the permanent home for the School of Cities.

The building will have a music hall with a large window that presents the city skyline as a backdrop. There will also be a 400-seat auditorium on the next floor above with a similar view.

U of T chief of planning, design, and development Gilbert Delgado says that the project was created out of a desire to advance the thinking about how cities are made.

“With all new university projects, we have instructed our architects to create buildings are that are very open on the ground floor,” he said. 

The McLaughlin Planetarium is currently located at 90 Queen’s Park Crescent, but has been closed since 1995. The university bought the planetarium from the ROM in 2009. Despite a popular petition to preserve the building as historic architecture, the university plans to demolish it. In November, U of T announced plans to build a new planetarium at 50 St. George St.

Delgado says that the university is currently in discussions with the ROM about having a floor in the building.

The building is designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, a New York architecture firm known for designing New York’s iconic High Line. The studio is also collaborating with the Toronto firm Architects Alliance, who worked on two other U of T buildings: the Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research and the Woodsworth College Residence. As well ERA Architects is working on the project as heritage consultants.

Delgado says that the project aims to preserve the historic Falconer Hall, a building for the Faculty of Law which dates back to 1901.

“The city has identified this building as a particularly valuable heritage resource,” says Delgado. “Its design responds to that in a very constructive and innovative way.” 

Councillor Mike Layton says that he has communicated with Councillor Joe Cressy’s office in the past and has been in contact with U of T recently about their project.

“I have also hosted a meeting about the project with representatives of the neighbouring residents’ associations, as well as the assigned City Planners in Community Planning and Heritage Preservation Services to discuss the application and any concerns they have,” he said. 

The building will have public spaces for the community. Layton says that he is “looking forward to working with all parties” to ensure that the project “meets the needs of the community”.

“On every project, I look to secure community benefits, and while it is still too early in the process to determine specific benefits,” he said, “I am looking forward to the discussions with the community to determine what is best.”

While Delgado says there is no completion date set, the Diller Scofidio + Renfro website states that groundbreaking for the project will start in 2020.

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