The University of Toronto Mississauga campus was founded in 1965 as Erindale College. The largest building back then was the megalithic concrete South Building by architect Raymond Moriyama. The satellite campus now includes multiple architecturally significant buildings by Kohn Shnier, Saucier Perrotte and Shore Tilbe Irwin. The latest addition to the assembly of buildings comes from the Toronto firm Kongats Architects. The new building, elevated by the slight slope of the landscape stands out with its simplicity of form and a delicately executed tectonic skin. Alar Kongats, Principal at Kongats Architects describes the recently completed project in our E-mail interview by answering the following questions:
Exterior south west corner
What was the main challenge or inspiration in the concept for the building?
It became apparent early on that the project faced two main challenges of understanding a complex building program and continuing the campus’ admired connectivity to its’ natural setting.
The functional programming supports three primary user groups: the Mississauga Academy of Medicine, the department of Biomedical Communications and the department of Anthropology and Forensics. Each of the three user groups has very distinct space, adjacency and identity requirements. A number of building massing configurations were explored: a woven courtyard, an interior courtyard and terraced gardens, to meet the program’s requirements. The terraced gardens or stacked ‘boxes’ best facilitated the desired program adjacencies. The ‘boxes’ enlarge and shrink from floor to floor to suit the program requirements, with a focus on maximizing views and access to daylight. The residual interstitial outdoor spaces created between the stacked ‘boxes’ accommodate accessible terraces and indigenous plant roof gardens with protective overhangs for the occupants on each floor. The teaching, office spaces and laboratories float in greenery.
Exterior North east corner
How did the surrounding buildings or the site contribute to the design?
The Terrence Donnelly Health Sciences Complex is the first of three proposed new buildings within the University of Toronto Mississauga’s South Campus. These three buildings, together with the constructed Learning Centre and CCT building, will define a new Academic Quad for the campus. The TDHSC is situated on sloped terrain rising up from the outer campus Ring Drive, and will landmark the entrance to the proposed Academic Quad. The shifting floor plates of the TDHSC accentuate the soft landscape to the east south and west while the building’s north face in its’ vertical uniformity provides a more formal façade to the Academic Quad. The faceted façades of stainless steel with capture both natural and ambient artificial light ensuring its landmark presence is articulated 24/7.
Level 2 terrace
How does the completed building compare to the project as designed? Were there any dramatic changes between the two and/or lessons learned during construction?
The project was originally conceived of as a steel structure however to avoid the negative impact of rapidly escalating steel prices the structural framing was converted to concrete during final design development. The design through a series of carefully considered repetitive dropped concrete slabs and beams achieves the visual simplicity and abstract quality of the stacked ‘boxes'. The switching to a concrete structural frame also allowed us to proceed with the development of the custom manufactured stainless steel cladding within the Clients budgetary requirements. Through attentive pre-construction monitoring of the construction market the completed building achieved the design expression as originally envisioned, a delicate skin of glass and undulating stainless steel panels wrapping a series of stacked ‘boxes’ that step up the existing hill of the site.
Interior Level 1 entrance
How does the building compare to other projects in your office, be it the same or other building types? Your work has a detail oriented approach with respect to the exterior skin, can you elaborate on the development.
The Terrence Donnelly Health Sciences Centre continues to explore our interest in a pragmatic approach to program and the subtle reflection of programmatic complexity within the exterior skin first manifest in our constructed Hespeler Library and continuing through to our Centennial College’s Athletic and Wellness Centre currently under construction. As an office we are less interested in the sameness of each project than making evident how each project is dependent on a language achieved through type.
How does the building relate to contemporary architectural trends, be it sustainability, technology, etc.?
The project is reflective of the potential of technology and material development to re-establish craft into building construction. The exterior stainless steel panels are custom fabricated using CNC cutting technology and assembled together using structural silicon adhesives to achieve a seamless skin. The entire building envelope is designed as a dual system; an insulated and water tight primary skin and an independent outer skin to reduce heat gain utilizing the stainless steel panels to reflect heat and shade glazed areas. The TDHSC is designed to achieve a North American LEED Gold sustainability designation.
E-Mail Interview conducted by Mark Tholen
South and east elevations
Stainless steel panel cladding detail