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U of T picks architects for new Civilizations and Cultures building

Architects Alliance worked on Pan Am Games village

The University of Toronto’s new Centre for Civilizations and Cultures, proposed for 90 Queen’s Park Crescent, has the daunting task of not only providing a home for a number of academic departments that may not otherwise find themselves rubbing shoulders, but also living up to the standards of the heavy-hitting museums and cultural institutions that will be its neighbours.

“We have a president [Meric Gertler] that’s made an engagement with cities and taking advantage of our physical location a significant priority, so we’ve also been thinking of the outward connections of this building to the campus and to the greater city of Toronto,” says Scott Mabury, vice-president of university operations.

Last week the university announced that Toronto’s Architects Alliance, partnered with New York-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro, have been chosen to design the high-profile new building, to be built on the site once occupied by the Royal Ontario Museum’s McLaughlin Planetarium.

The budget and what the building will look like are still undermined, though a consultation process with tenants, the community and other stakeholders over the next few months should contribute to a preliminary schematic plan by the summer. The two architecture firms were chosen not for a particular design proposal, but after an extensive interview process that evaluated the success of other projects the firms had worked on.

The centre will provide a home for the department of history, the department of Near and Middle Eastern civilizations, the Institute of Islamic Studies and the research arm of the Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies. It will also feature a 250-seat performance hall for the Faculty of Music.

“Our Faculty of Music sits behind this location, so the recital hall will help give the faculty a presence on Queen’s Park,” says Mabury. “It will give them a gateway onto Queen’s Park, as well as a compelling entrance, taking advantage of the plaza possibilities and doing that in a way that connect the activities in the building with the greater public and the city.”

The architects are also tasked with improving access to Philosopher’s Walk, one of the city’s best-loved hidden secret, which passes by Trinity College, the Royal Conservatory of Music and the ROM.

“We won’t be tinkering with the walk itself but we do think that gem deserves to be accessible. One could imagine folks exiting the ROM or the Gardiner Museum across the street or coming to an event in the Civilizations and Culture building, who might want to finish off their experience with a stroll through Philosopher’s Walk,” Mabury says.

Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Scott Mabury
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