1 Spadina Crescent

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1 Spadina Crescent, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

1 Spadina Crescent located on Spadina Avenue in Toronto, Ontario Canada north of College Street is one of the few roundabouts in Toronto that interrupts a major street; similar land plots include King's College Circle and Queen's Park. The site contains the One Spadina heritage building (designated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act on March 17, 1976[1]), which is currently under construction and is expected to open to the public in 2016. The original Gothic Revival structure was built in 1875 to house Knox College; it became associated with the University of Toronto twelve years later.[1]

One Spadina has contained a variety of programs since its construction: a theological seminary, a military hospital, a penicillin factory, an eye bank, and multiple University of Toronto departments. However, its upcoming incarnation will soon harbor the John H. Daniels Faculty of Landscape, Architecture, & Design. Under the leadership of Nader Tehrani, principal of NADAAA, and collaborator Katie Faulkner, the revitalization of One Spadina will renew the existing south-facing 19th-century Gothic Revival building, and will develop the site’s northern section with a dramatic work of contemporary architecture. The Toronto firm Public Work is creating the landscape design of 1 Spadina Crescent, and Adamson Associates and ERA Architects are serving as executive and preservation architects, respectively. According to the University, the revitalized One Spadina will be an urban design exemplar, and a catalyst for the transformation of U of T’s western edge on the Spadina corridor. Once completed, One Spadina will be a showcase for the city and the University, and a world-leading venue for studying, conducting research, and advocating for architecture, landscape, and sustainable urbanization.[2]


The parcel of land now known as Spadina Crescent first appeared on maps of Toronto as early as 1835, originally named “Mansfield's Old Gardens”[3] and then Crescent Garden.[4] There was the intention for the city to turn it into a park, however the conditions for this were never met and the land was sold in 1873 to the Hon. J. McMurrich of the Presbyterian Church for $10,000.[4]

In 1875, the original Gothic Revival building was opened to house Knox College, a theological college of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Knox College became affiliated with the University of Toronto in 1887, and in 1914 moved to its current location on the west side of King's College Circle. During World War I, the building became a barracks, and shortly afterward became the Spadina Military Hospital. For a period in 1918, Amelia Earhart lived in Toronto to be with her sister, and she worked as a nurse's aide at the Hospital until she contracted influenza.[5] It remained a veterans hospital until 1943 when it was acquired by the University of Toronto's Connaught Medical Research Laboratories, which became one of Canada's main centers for the development and manufacture of pharmaceuticals. The building was in disrepair at this point and needed substantial renovations. It was also around this time that the basement was excavated.[6] In the 1960s, it was proposed that this building be demolished to make way for the Spadina Expressway, which was never built.

One Spadina became an academic building again in 1972, and became the home for the AE MacDonald Library; the Ophthalmic Pathology Laboratory; research laboratories; departmental administrative offices and classrooms for resident lectures; and the Eye bank of Canada (Ontario Division).[7] The latter tenant gave rise to the urban legend that One Spadina contained a room full of eyeballs in the basement. To acknowledge this legend, the annual Visual Studies undergraduate art show is titled Eyeball.[5]

In June 2013, the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design revealed its plans to rehabilitate the One Spadina building and incorporate a large, contemporary extension on the northern half of the site.[8] Through a design competition, Nader Tehrani, principal of the internationally acclaimed firm NADAAA, and collaborator Katie Faulkner were chosen to lead the design. Toronto consultants Public Work were chosen as the landscape designers, ERA Architects as the preservation architects, and Adamson Associates as the executive architects.[9]

On December 4, 2015, the Toronto Star published a video by Christopher Hume, its architecture critic, celebrating the building's history, and the University's plan to renovate, update and expand the building.[10]

Renewal of One Spadina Crescent[edit]

One Spadina is currently under construction, but a variety of academic and public spaces are planned for the site and building upon the anticipated completion date of Fall 2016. The exterior of One Spadina — designed by NADAAA — is expected to act as a visual centerpiece for the Spadina Avenue corridor.



The design of the One Spadina building was conceived as a two-phased project to both renovate and expand the iconic structure formerly known as Knox College, transforming the existing building into a framework more relevant to the teachings and aspirations of the Daniels Faculty, while expanding into a flexible facility that can foster changes of pedagogy in the years to come. The masterplan for this 19th-century site was developed through the analysis of anticipated use patterns and site ecology, with an eye toward re-positioning the southwest corner of campus on-axis with Lake Ontario, and creating a new identity for the Faculty. The One Spadina project will make the Spadina Crescent open to the public after years of inaccessibility, and will offer an identity to the northern face of the building for the first time. While the north-south axis are characterized by important symbolic relationships to the city, it is the east-west axis that is activated by daily pedestrian traffic, and thus, the site is bi-axially organized with strong markers on all faces.[11]

Both the east and west sides of the building will be marked by new entryways. A Public Plaza on the east face connects the building to the U of T campus. On the west edge, a more discreet arcade space addresses the smaller, residential scale of the adjacent neighborhood. The east and west portals give way to an east-west walkway through the building that will serve as an extension of Russell Street and provide a critical pedestrian link across the site. This pathway, named the Commons, will run through the centre of the circle. The Café, the Lounge, Principal Hall, the Fabrication Lab, the Library, and the pavilions will all link to the Commons.

On the south side of the site, a large, raised platform will be built to honour and leverage the site's original purpose: to command a singular view down Spadina Avenue to the lake and islands beyond. Named the Belvedere, the platform will be a gathering and event space for the University community and visiting public. It will also provide a highly accessible entry point to the original historic building from College and Spadina streetcars, thus opening the site to the public and offering a grand entrance into the Principal Hall for large events.

The roof of the building serves as a key architectural instrument: integrating day-lighting, hydrological control and structural optimization. It spans over 110 feet (34m) between two service cores, across the Principal Hall.  Three cantilever trusses form the geometry of a series of clerestory windows that will let in natural sunlight into the studios below.  The two larger windows are oriented north; however, the smaller opening along the central spine faces south, and filters the direct sun with a honeycomb glazing insert. The interior of the roof will be finished with a white, smooth ceiling that forms a subtle ruled surface between the clerestories as the steel members angle upwards. The spine of the roof follows the central axis of the building, which shares a significant urban alignment with Spadina Avenue and the adjacent heritage building.[12]


Daylighting: The roof and north-facing windows will bring light into the core of the building. In total, 61% of the building will be served by daylighting, resulting in energy savings that will amount to 54% less emissions than would otherwise be needed.[13]

Storm water harvesting: The roof of the new building has been designed to channel and harvest rainwater (approx. 1096 m2 per year). Rain that falls on the roof will be directed into a cistern and will be used to irrigate green roofs and surrounding landscape. One hundred percent of the site’s greywater needs will be satisfied by storm water harvesting.[13]

Accommodation for pedestrians and cyclists: Parking spaces for 280 bikes will be provided underneath a terrace in front of the historic building on the south side. The current fencing around the site will be removed and walkways will be created around the entire site to ensure open pedestrian access.[13]

Heat reduction: The new building will incorporate white roofs (to reflect, rather than absorb, the sun) and green roofs (which help keep buildings cool). Calculations to date suggest that this will make the building up to 30 degrees Celsius cooler on a hot, sunny day, without the use of air conditioning. The new building’s green roof will provide an additional site for the Faculty’s Green Roof Innovation Testing Laboratory (also known as the gritab), where researchers working with industry partners and the City of Toronto are working to determine how to improve the efficiency of green roofs.[13]

Overall building emissions rate: 58% of Model National Energy Code for Buildings.[13]

Architecture and Design Gallery[edit]

One Spadina will introduce an elegant new public gallery along the northeastern edge of the site, as part of an emerging “design arts district” that will also include the historic Borden Buildings, which was recently repurposed to house the Daniels Faculty’s visual studies programs. The gallery will present professionally curated exhibitions of international significance on architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, visual studies, and other allied design fields. The University’s curatorial and teaching talent, as well as its students, will use the gallery to promote experimentation, educate the public about architecture, design, and visual culture, and promote emerging talent. The gallery will also host travelling exhibitions from abroad, as well as exhibitions on Toronto’s architectural Heritage and its contemporary design challenges. The Architecture and Design Gallery will be the only exhibition space in Toronto exclusively devoted to architecture, landscape, and design. As such, the gallery will be an important advocate for the design professions — generating debate, broadening public interest, and exploring the important ways in which design shapes neighbourhoods, cities, and daily lives.[14]

Principal Hall[edit]

Located in the very centre of the One Spadina complex, the Principal Hall is designed to serve as a multi-dimensional public platform for the Daniels Faculty, as well as one of Toronto’s premier venues for discussing the vital role the design arts play in reinventing neighbourhoods, communities, and cities for the 21st century. With seating for 400 people, the new Principal Hall will also be the primary gathering and large class teaching space within One Spadina and a showcase for the Faculty’s studio and thesis reviews. Located at the intersection of the historic Knox College building and the new expansion, the hall will complete the original Knox cloister, creating a place where people come together to share ideas, engage in debates, and participate in the diverse work of our faculty and students. The configuration of the hall is akin to the communal form of certain Renaissance theatres, with lounges, viewing galleries, and openings to other functions lining the periphery of the space. The design will allow for multiple configurations and uses, ensuring maximum utility for students and faculty, and, most crucially, greater flexibility for a wide range of events opening up the University to the community. As such, the Principal Hall will serve as the centre of intellectual life at the Daniels Faculty.[15]

Daniels Faculty Public Lecture Series[edit]

Each year, the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design presents public lectures, fora, and symposia that showcase leading professionals and academics in the fields of architecture, landscape, urban design, visual studies, as well as important thinkers and opinion makers in allied fields. The public lectures cover the wide range of approaches taken by architects, landscape architects, urban designers, artists, scholars, and others who are asking important questions about, and tackling the significant challenges facing, cities and landscapes. Each of the series provides students, alumni, and members of the public with access and insight into the work of esteemed colleagues and visitors to the Faculty from around the globe.

Notable Lecturers[edit]


Featuring more than 33,000 volumes, with a focus on the contemporary, the Library at the Daniels Faculty is widely viewed as an indispensable resource for students, faculty, and members of Toronto's design community. The new Library at One Spadina will include increased space for collections, larger study spaces, and a dedicated section for the Daniels Faculty's rare book collection. Located just steps from Spadina Avenue, the Library's Reading Room will occupy what was originally the refectory of Knox College. The space will provide students with a place of quiet reflection – a piece of the original cloister in counterpoint to the energy and pace of the Design Studios, the Fabrication Lab, and various teaching and presentation spaces within One Spadina. The Library's Reading Room will remain open to the public, offering outside students, researchers, urban planners, design professionals, journalists, and design aficionados access to collections in art, architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design that are unrivalled in Toronto.

Student Work Spaces[edit]

Design Studios[edit]

Because the Daniels Faculty has a strong culture of review, critique, and dialogue, close to a third of One Spadina – a combined 30,000 sq. ft. – will be devoted to the Design Studios, offering students expansive views of the city, and at the same time, a transparent sightline into the building for pedestrians traversing Spadina Avenue from the north. The Design Studios will feature flexible modern workspaces, areas for fabrication and collaboration, and informal pin-up and digital presentation spaces where group design critiques can take place. Unlike the factory-like spaces typical of a previous generation of design schools, the studios at One Spadina will be akin to a conservatory for design where students, faculty and visiting critics, and professionals may gather in dynamic formats, and where creative performance, exchange, and collaboration will be facilitated and encouraged.

Fabrication Lab[edit]

One Spadina will feature an advanced digital fabrication laboratory and high-bay construction area, offering a variety of computationally controlled technologies, including large 3-axis routers, a fused deposition modelling rapid-prototyping system, a colour 3D printer, a 3D digitizer, a 3D laser scanner, several laser cutters, a large format vacuum former, and a suite of workstations. While these types of spaces are often sequestered below grade at other schools, the Fabrication Lab at One Spadina will take centre stage, offering first-hand views from the Commons and the Café into the elevated role of craft and manufacture in our fields.


Modal Cities Theatre and Lab[edit]

The Model Cities Theatre and Lab will bring together cutting-edge urban metrics and immersive visualization techniques, creating an unparalleled venue for research and teaching. Metrics-driven research on cities will inform complex multi-dimensional city models, creating alternate design, planning, and technology-based morphologies for cities. The Theatre and Lab offer the potential to undertake needed research on designing cities holistically, creating a needed public forum to engage new constituencies and instigate new decision frameworks, design options, policy alternatives, and industry solutions.[16]

Institute for Architecture and Human Health[edit]

The new Institute for Architecture and Human Health will draw on the University’s traditional strengths in the health sciences and public policy to develop new ideas for reforming the built environment. It will also research the impact architecture and design have on the quality of patient care, the delivery of health care services, and the creation of more efficient, cost-effective health care facilities. The Institute will anchor a new Masters program in Health Design, which will educate professionals on how to address health care and wellness through innovations in architecture, landscape, and urban design.[17]

Global Cities Institute[edit]

The recently launched Global Cities Institute (GCI) — under the leadership of newly appointed Director, Professor Patricia McCarney — will help meet the demand for better tools for designing and planning cities by providing globally comparable data, strategic analytics, and synthetic media to model alternative urban futures. The GCI will house the Global City Indicators Facility (GCIF) — a world leading research centre for urban metrics, governance, and policy. Originally established with funding from the World Bank, the CGIF is developing standardized metrics for the global comparison of cities. These metrics are critically important because there is currently no data that conforms to a standardized methodology, which makes comparisons across the world’s cities difficult. Having standardized metrics for decision makers in cities around the world creates a common platform for achieving sound policy and improved quality of life. The GCIF’s database comprises 115 indicators across a standardized set of definitions and methodologies, which enable cities to track their effectiveness on everything from planning and economic growth to transportation, safety and education. The data captured by the GCIF will inform the work of urban researchers, architects, designers, policy makers, developers, economists, and industry leaders the world over, providing them with a common, reliable set of metrics to model and visualize new, progressive forms of urbanization.[18]

One Spading Green Roof Innovation Testing Lab[edit]

Established in 2010 by the Daniels Faculty’s Centre for Landscape Research, the Green Roof Innovation Testing Lab (gritlab) is a state-of-the-art facility for testing the environmental performance of green roofs, green walls, and solar photovoltaic technologies in the Canadian context. The GRIT lab is setting standards and testing policy-based initiatives for the City of Toronto and other jurisdictions. The gritlab consists of 33 green roof test beds, three green walls, a weather station, and 270 sensors connected to over 5,000 linear feet of wiring. Data on soil moisture, runoff, temperature, rainfall, humidity, solar energy, and wind is collected every five minutes. The lab sits currently sits atop of the Daniels Faculty building at 230 College Street, but will later continue its work from a more prominent space atop the landscape pavilions of the new One Spadina building.[19]


  1. ^ a b "City of Toronto Staff Report" (PDF). Toronto Preservation Board. May 26, 2014. Retrieved August 3, 2016. 
  2. ^ "The University of Toronto to transform an iconic Toronto landmark into the new home of the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design". John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design. June 11, 2013. Retrieved August 3, 2016. 
  3. ^ McHugh, Patricia (1989) [1985]. Toronto Architecture – A City Guide. McClelland & Stewart Inc. The Canadian Publishers. p. 119. 
  4. ^ a b Arthur, Eric (1968) [1964]. Toronto – No Mean City. University of Toronto Press. p. 153. 
  5. ^ a b "One Spadina". The Varsity. Varsity Publications. January 29, 2008. 
  6. ^ Bolan, Tim (2003). Structures, Show #9 , "1 Spadina Crescent. Rogers Television. 
  7. ^ "One Spadina Crescent". Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences, University of Toronto. 
  8. ^ Blackett, Matthew (June 11, 2013). "U of T reveals new design for One Spadina Crescent". Spacing. 
  9. ^ Calvet, Stephanie (June 12, 2013). "Iconic Spadina Building to be Transformed into Architecture School". Urban Toronto. 
  10. ^ Hume, Christopher (December 4, 2015). "The big change coming to Spadina and College". Toronto Star. Retrieved December 6, 2015. Christopher Hume on the best reason to come to Spadina Ave. and College St. in 2016. 
  11. ^ "Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape + Design at 1 Spadina Crescent 2016". NADAAA. 
  12. ^ Beresford, T. (July 1, 2016). "Three Bow-ties". NADAAA Blog. 
  13. ^ a b c d e "NADAAA architects provide insight into the design of the new Daniels Faculty complex at One Spadina Crescent". Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design. June 19, 2013. 
  14. ^ "One Spadina Gallery". University of Toronto. 
  15. ^ "Principal Hall". University of Toronto. 
  16. ^ "The Model Cities Theatre and Lab". University of Toronto. 
  17. ^ "Institute for Architecture and Human Health". University of Toronto. 
  18. ^ "Global Cities Institute". University of Toronto. 
  19. ^ "One Spadina Green Roof Innovation Testing Lab (GRIT)". University of Toronto. 

Coordinates: 43°39′35″N 79°24′03″W / 43.65972°N 79.40083°W / 43.65972; -79.40083