Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Probably UTSC's architecture is so familiar to you that you just tune it out. That would be a shame, because many of these buildings are award-winning, and are art forms as valid as as the paintings lining the walls of the Doris McCarthy Gallery. Love it or hate it, UTSC's aesthetic was designed very deliberately. Here, take the time to appreciate the place you call home.

The Andrews Building

The Science and Humanities Wings are actually one giant structure, originally called The Andrews Building when UTSC first opened in 1965. It was named after its architect, John Andrews, who is best known for being the architect behind the CN Tower.

Anyway, Andrews constructed the building in the Brutalist style, a style in vogue in the 1960s and 1970s and inspired by Japanese Metabolism, Russian Constructivism, and the New Brutalism of post-WWII England.

It was designed to blend seamlessly into the landscape, and so the forest area around UTSC was left to grow, and the Andrews Building was built against the edge of the ravine, almost seeming to extend the lip of the valley.

At the time it amazed the architecture world for being the largest concrete building ever made. The interior of the Andrews Building was designed to be like a city, with the long corridors meant to resemble streets. Plenty of natural light was let in to reinforce this effect. I'll admit that the corridors do indeed look like city streets, albeit the stark dystopian kind.

The Science and Humanities wings were fashioned so that students never had to go outside between classes (we're in Canada, after all). Originally the residences were to be build at the ends of both wings, so that students could roll right out of bed and into class, but that plan was scrapped for monetary reasons. All the city streets converge on the central hub, the Meeting Place! It was built for students and faculty to mix and mingle, presumably so that science and arts students would learn to get along. That last part didn't work out.


The Academic Resource Centre was the next major academic building to be built, in 2003. It was designed by Brian MacKay-Lyons in the Modernist style. The exterior was plated with copper, which as it aged turned brown and, nowadays, is just beginning to turn green. According to Canadian Architect magazine, "The understatedness and richness achieved through the patina of the copper cladding complements the strength of the massie Inca-like concrete structures initially laid out by Andrews."

In the interior of the ARC, Mackay-Lyons took influence from Andrews in the use of elevated walkways, overlooks, and plenty of natural light. The plan of the building is organized on a grid, with 25-foot-wide "boats" being "docked" on the grid. Between the "boats" are two-storey hallways and suspended walkways. The lecture theatre, AC223, is meant to be a giant "ark" docked on concrete. 

Mackay-Lyons used repetitive materials, like concrete columns, concrete block walls, suspended and exposed circulation system, and cherry plywood millwork "as a means of demarkating spaces, from points of arrival to back-of-house activities," says Canadian Architect. Of course, the major landmark of the ARC is the University of Toronto Scarborough Library, which was relocated from the Bladen Wing.


The Social Sciences Wing (originally the Management Wing) was designed by architectural firm Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg. Like Andrews's Brutalist work, it's made chiefly of concrete, but Douglas fir was used on some walls to give it a lighter touch. The "city street" aesthetic from Andrews was again borrowed, and the architects lined faculty offices along the outside walls of corridors in the building, separated from the noise of the social areas but still open to each other. The architects also took cues from Andrews in the generous use of natural light, with one wall being entirely window, and minimal artificial light. The 60-seat lecture rooms with desks in a horseshoe around the professor were modelled on rooms at Harvard Business School.

AA and Student Centre

The Arts and Administration building is made largely out of brick and limestone. It was also inspired by Andrews, but its use of wood and polished concrete makes it warmer and more elegant.

The Student Centre was opened in 2004 and funded by students themselves. It's clad in titanium, and its butterfly roof establishes a clear main entrance to the campus. It was designed from the ground up to be energy-efficient (and LEED-certified!), with a green roof, bamboo floors in lounges, and its use of recycled steel.


Finally, the Instructional Centre is the newest building on campus, and the most indicative of modern architectural styles. Painted in white and grey on the inside and clad in green opaque glass, photo-voltaic solar panels, a green roof, and no shortage of windows, the building is meant to have an airy feel. A glass bridge connects the two sides: one for students, and the other for faculty offices. Cementing its modern approach, the IC is built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver sustainability standards and features a two-storey-tall piece of modern art on the wall in its skylight atrium.

And that, folks, is all. I hope I've given you a new appreciation for the intelligent design of our campus. All photographs were taken by yours truly.


  1. Love the information! I never really appreciated the architecture at UTSC, I will be sure to pay more attention as I walk around the campus.

  2. Great, great article. Definitely going to appreciate the architecture of all the buildings again.


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