Toronto university proposes 10-storey graduate residence

The University of Toronto, Ont., has proposed a 10-storey building to provide housing for more than 200 graduate students. Image © Michael Maltzan Architecture
The University of Toronto, Ont., has proposed a 10-storey building to provide housing for more than 200 graduate students.
Image © Michael Maltzan Architecture

The University of Toronto (U of T), Ont., has unveiled plans for a 10-storey building to provide housing for more than 200 graduate students and expand living, social, and study spaces on its St. George campus.

With brick exterior and unique window cutouts, the Harbord Residence envisions a mix of dormitory-style and single-occupancy rooms. The proposed residence, which is yet to be considered by the university’s governing council, would also feature a bridge connecting it to the neighbouring Graduate House, with the two buildings sharing amenities including an event space, food court, lounges, and study rooms.

It is being designed by Los Angeles-based Michael Maltzan Architecture, and would be executed with Toronto’s ArchitectsAlliance.

Anne Macdonald, U of T’s assistant vice-president of ancillary services, said the proposed building would be a welcome addition to campus since current demand for graduate student housing is more than double the number of available spaces.

The upper levels of the proposed building would consist of residential space and smaller lounge spaces for the exclusive use of residents of both Harbord Residence and Graduate House. The second and third floors would host common lounges, meeting spaces, residence life offices, and quiet study rooms. The ground floor would accommodate a food court and retail space, acting as the interface between the building and the surrounding Huron-Sussex neighbourhood.

“One of the things we wanted the architect to do for us was to have the ground plane be a more welcoming place for the broader community—for our neighbours and other U of T community members to come in,” said Macdonald.

The design of study spaces in the building would take into account students’ evolving learning habits, with an increased emphasis on rooms facilitating group work.

“We have found over the years that more and more students are doing work in groups, especially graduate and second-entry students, so there is a need for that. These spaces will be available and shared between Harbord Residence and Graduate House,” Macdonald said.

The proposal, anticipated to enter the university’s governance process in 2020, follows last year’s announcement of an agreement to build a 23-storey residence tower at the corner of Spadina and Sussex Avenues. That building, which will house over 500 students, is expected to be completed in 2021.

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  1. I think it’s a really shame, embarrassment and a slap in the face of Canadian Architects not to mention U of T’s own faculty of architecture that this university felt it could not turn to its own graduates who have gone on to become some of this country’s/city’s best practices and instead looked south of the border to hand over the design of this addition!

    The selection of any non Canadian architectural firm says more about the teaching of this university and the faith it has towards its graduates then it does about the quality and ability of its graduates who have gone off to become some this city’s greatest architectural practices.

    The question we should be asking this University is who is making these decisions to look beyond their own family and why it has no confidence in its own Alumni to undertake this development project?

    Perhaps it’s time this university who so proudly markets itself as being one the worlds best university’s starts to put its money where their mouth is and back into the hands of Canadian architects who have graduated from this establishment and show how they support the very ones they taught!

    There have been several examples of Canadian businesses always thinking the grass will be greener elsewhere rather than within, only to be disappointed with the result ie ROM!!

    U of T should take pride and invest in its own and all Alumni and current students should insist upon it!

  2. Honestly it’s pretty ugly. Its “striking” brick exterior will age no better than the other glorified cardboard box towers that defaced our city for half a century. It’s great that the University wants to create a large graduate residence; but there’s only so much you can do with function, we are in an age where form and aesthetics must matter again.

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