Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy

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Evening view of the Faculty of Pharmacy Building's southeastern corner

The Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy is a pharmacy school and an academic division of the University of Toronto. The faculty is located on the northwestern corner of College Street and University Avenue, placing it across from the Ontario Legislative Building and at the entrance to Queen's Park station. It is also situated 1-2 blocks away from four internationally renowned hospitals — the Hospital for Sick Children, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Toronto General Hospital and Mount Sinai Hospital. It is part of Toronto's Discovery District.

The Faculty of Pharmacy Building is an award-winning structure and a state-of-the-art facility in terms of both its educational facilities[1][2] and its architectural design.[3][4] It is particularly notable for its two orb-shaped classrooms, referred to as the "pods", which are suspended lecture halls. The pods are lit at night with coloured stage lights visible from afar, giving the building a "Star Trek feel".[5] Likened to giant glowing pills, the pods are reason #113 to love Toronto,[6] and have been deemed "something of a local landmark."[7]

The Pharmacy Building has received international coverage and awards, in part because of its design team, including world-famous Sir Norman Foster and Claude Engle, as well as its high-profile sponsor Leslie Dan. It was also featured on the cover of, as well as profiled in, the book Detail In Process.[8]


The Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto began in 1853, when the Ontario College of Pharmacy (now Pharmacists) who first operated at the school had merged into the school curriculum.[9] By 1868, the pharmacy program consisted of only a few evenings of voluntary classes, with no practically prerequisite classes. However, the long, tradition apprenticeship of this professional field had pressed a strong emphasis onto the students. Today, the program has evolved into “a compulsory, four-year second-entry scientific and professional university course with a supervised period of professional practice.”[9] The organization of this program has become significantly more structured. This change in focus strayed away from the predominant emphasis of the practice of training through an apprenticeship to today’s emphasis of a theoretical study and application of those skills in real-life situations. Students are better equipped with the skills which are required to meet the present needs of the profession. The University of Toronto was the only school in all of Ontario which offered a pharmacy education, until 1963 this faculty was held at 44-46 Gerrard Street East.

In 1877, the Faculty moved into the University of Toronto campus, and new levels of pharmaceutical education was offered as a PhD degree at the University of Toronto was being arranged.[9] As the demands for more pharmacists increased, the demands of professional education in this particular field increased as well. As a result, in 1992, the faculty introduced the PharmD-Doctor of Pharmacy- in hopes to accommodate for the growing need for graduates in the field.[9] Within the past decade, enrolment in the undergraduate and graduate programs and doubled and tripled in size respectively. The Faculty had no choice but to expand their facilities, thus moving to their current location at 144 College Street in 2006. The Faculty of Pharmacy of the University of Toronto's Arms and Badge were registered with the Canadian Heraldic Authority on 17 May 2001.[10] The Latin motto is “Trutina Penso Doctrinae” which means “I weigh by the balance of learning.”

As the only faculty of pharmacy in Ontario until 2007, the Faculty needed to expand beyond 120 students per year, but could not do so in its limited space. The largest room in the former Pharmacy Building (the Norman F. Hughes building, now the Anthropology Building, located at Huron St. and Russell St.) held only 30 students, and each year (at the time of the proposal) had 120 students.[3][5] Thus, none of the pharmacy classes could be held within its own building, a serious problem for any professional faculty. As well, the various pharmacy research labs were interspersed throughout the campus.[8][11]

Construction of a new building enabled the pharmacy programme to gradually increase its student intake to 240 new students per year in September 2006, doubling its previous capacity;[3][12][13] between 2000 and 2008, the total enrolment in the pharmacy program (all 4 years) increased from 499 to 1,011 students.[12][13] Other programs administrated by the Faculty, including the graduate-level advanced Pharm.D. program (not to be confused with an entry-level Pharm.D.), the Bachelor of Science specialisation in pharmaceutical chemistry, the M.Sc. and Ph.D. programmes in pharmaceutical sciences and the International Pharmacy Graduates bridging programme also experienced significant growth.[14] On 19 April 2011, the Faculty announced a $1 million donation from Walmart Canada to create the Walmart Canada International Pharmacy Education Centre. This Centre will feature enhanced facilities including a one hundred seat classroom, and will allow increased enrollment into the programme.[15]

The $75-million (CAD) building was funded by numerous alumni and organisations, along with the Government of Ontario's SuperBuild fund. The building was named the Leslie L. Dan Faculty of Pharmacy Building in 2001 in honour of the generous donation made by Leslie Dan, an alumnus of the school and a noted pharmacist, philanthropist, entrepreneur and Member of the Order of Canada, as well as founder of the generic drug manufacturer Novopharm and the Canadian Medical Aid Programme. Dan donated $8 million earmarked specifically for the building in 2000, at which point the building was named for him; this was followed up with a $7 million donation to his alma mater in 2002, resulting in the Faculty of Pharmacy being renamed to the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy.[5][16]

Academics and curricula[edit]

The Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy administers two specialized degree programs in pharmacy:

  • Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD)
  • Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) for Pharmacists

The current entry-to-practice PharmD program graduated its first class in 2015, coinciding with the graduation of the last class of traditional post-graduate PharmD students.[17] This change mirrors that of the pharmacy curriculum in the United States of America: introducing advanced pharmacy practice experiences, increasing program admission requirements, thereby reducing and streamlining the didactic portions of the curriculum. This new entry-to-practice PharmD program replaces the previous entry-to-practice Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy (BScPhm) program. The traditional post-graduate PharmD program is also no longer available. Practicing pharmacists holding BScPhm may choose to elect to bridge to the current PharmD degree via the PharmD for Pharmacists program. Graduates from this program will hold both the traditional BScPhm and current PharmD degrees.

In addition, the Faculty offers a non-professional undergraduate Bachelor of Science program along with graduate research programs that lead to Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy (MSc and PhD) degrees in pharmaceutical chemistry.

At the University of Toronto, pharmacy students are already being trained for physical assessments and prescribing rights through problem-based, experiential and student-directed approaches to common ailments, case-based and critical reasoning skills and other coursework in pathophysiology, clinical biochemistry and pharmaceutical care.[18][19] These represent important advances in pharmacy education and the pharmacists' new critical role in Canada's health care system, and the use of the new building for Pharmacy is a symbol of the University of Toronto's dedication to health care and pharmaceutical research.[11]

In Ontario, legislation to allow pharmacists to authorise refills without consulting the prescribing physician, administer the injection or inhalation of certain drugs, alter dosage forms, be able to prescribe certain medications and perform subdermal procedures is currently in the enactment process, having passed its second reading.[20][21][22]

Building and environs[edit]

Leslie L. Dan Pharmacy Building
Leslie L Dan Pharmacy Building in Toronto.jpg
General information
Type Educational institution
Research facility
Architectural style Modernism[23]
Curtain wall façade
Location Downtown Toronto, Ontario
Address 144 College St.
Coordinates Coordinates: 43°39′35.406″N 79°23′28.04″W / 43.65983500°N 79.3911222°W / 43.65983500; -79.3911222
Current tenants Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy
Construction started 28 April 2003
Completed 2006
Inaugurated 6 September 2006
Cost $75 million CAD
Client University of Toronto
Height 56 metres (184 ft)
Technical details
Floor count 15 (12 aboveground)
Floor area 16,836 square metres (181,221 sq ft)[24]
Design and construction
Architect Stephen Best
Norman Foster, Baron Foster of Thames Bank
Architecture firm Foster and Partners
Moffat Kinoshita Architects[25]
Structural engineer Halcrow Yolles
Other designers Claude Engle
(Lighting consultant)
Stantec Consulting Ltd.
(Project manager)
H.H. Angus & Associates
(mechanical/electrical consultants)
Quantity surveyor Vermeulens Cost Consultant
Main contractor PCL Constructors Canada Inc.

Because the Faculty of Pharmacy Building represents an entrance to the University of Toronto campus, the university sought an exceptional design that would "turn heads".[29][30] An international design competition was held, ending in 2002 with the partnership of Moffat Kinoshita Architects, a Toronto-based architecture firm, and Foster and Partners, headed by Sir Norman Foster, Pritzker Prize winner and Tony Blair's personal architectural adviser.[29] The project was Foster's first foray into Canada, and served as a stepping-stone into numerous endeavours across the country.

Overall design[edit]

The entire building is constructed with simple, "ordinary" materials (Despite the Luxembourg-imported glass curtain wall façade and black granite window frames)."intricately engineered to be extraordinary.[29] It is described as a "box atop a box".[29] Externally, it appears as a large, seven-storey cube supported by a smaller five-storey box and twelve 19-metre tall concrete columns. These structures are unique in that they were built from the bottom up using self compacting concrete, which had never before been done in Canada.[31] The building is surrounded by the Luxembourg-imported glass curtain wall façade and black granite window frames.[23][32]

The Leslie L. Dan Pharmacy Building as seen from Queen's Park (facing southwest). To the south is the modern, all-glass Toronto Hydro building, and the campus-style Tanz Neuroscience Centre (c. 1932) is visible to the north.

The building's unique design serves multiple purposes. The surrounding structures are mainly low-rise historical campus and government buildings, but with the bustling modernized city on the south side, including the glass Ontario Power Building. Thus, the desired design had to fit in well with all these aspects, while still managing to "turn heads".[30] Of course, the building also had to accommodate the entire Faculty of Pharmacy (Canada's largest pharmacy faculty) within limited space. The result was the 5-storey + 7-storey design, where the platform aligns exactly with the cornices of the Fitzgerald and Tanz buildings.[8] The picture to the right demonstrates how the glass architecture and height blends in with the southern buildings, while the atrium is the same height as the adjacent campus building. The open atrium also allows the older varsity buildings to shine through, aiding in the visual integration with the surrounding structures.[30] The Pharmacy Building has been called the "anchor" of the intersection that was once an architectural contradiction.[33] The glass architecture is also a tribute to the lot's former residents, the University of Toronto greenhouses (now relocated to Allan Gardens).[33]

Before its completion, the building was featured in an architecture exhibition, "Gliding Through Space", an exhibition of Lord Norman Foster's works, a fusion of his passion for flying and aeronautics with his engineering and architecture expertise. The show, hosted by the University of Toronto Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design and the Eric Arthur Gallery, gave the Pharmacy Building top billing, featuring 61 pages of working drawings, samples of the glass used and photographic sequences of the pods being constructed and attached.[1][34]

Site context[edit]

Standing gracefully with its glass façade on the university campus, this building stands out from its adjacent traditional, brick, historical buildings. The building itself is pushed back from the street slightly, separated by a grassy area and paved sidewalk. Marking the boundaries of its site, a paved area (equivalent to the base area of the larger box) is also marked directly around the base of the building. Looking at the relationship between the Leslie L. Dan Pharmacy Building and its greater urban context, it is evident that this building plays a key role in the overall composition of its immediate landscape. Its stately concrete columns along with the elegant, fritted curtain wall glass, creates a strong relation between the Ontario Hydro Building to the south and the MaRS Centre diagonally opposite.[35] The materials used throughout these three buildings are very similar and they complement each other very well in the greater scheme of things. This building serves an important role at this junction, as its ties together other buildings found on and outside of the campus, forming a harmonious composition in its downtown urban context; while gracefully establishes its presence and importance on the school campus, standing as a tall elegant, state-of-the-art facility for the Pharmacy Faculty of the University of Toronto.


The overall forms of this structure can be simply described as a larger box sitting on top a smaller box with a central void (the atrium) connecting the two forms together. Looking at the profile of this building from afar, it seems like the large seven-story block is held up solely by the series of columns. The lower block is completely transparent, thus the definition of that space is lost when the building is viewed from a distance. The facades of this building are very planar, and its overall form is very geometrical and rectilinear. Stretching along the vertical axis, this building is bi-laterally symmetrical. Made almost entirely of glass, the building facades are very planar yet sophisticated. The only contrast to its smooth, sleek, glass façade is the soft, round, colossal columns which the larger box sits atop of and the large organic orbs which float inside the atrium.

This planar geometry and rectilinear nature are also echoed and scaled down in nearly every individual member of the structure’s interior and exterior façade. Metal paneling, glazing, exterior ornamentation are all representative of the buildings overall dimension. Furthermore, it is evident from any elevation, that rectilinear overlap has been transferred from plan to section. This relentless linearity is broken only by the two abstract pod shapes and the cylindrical columns, in what appears to be an intentional play by the architect to create interest and tension.


There are several types of different materials that are used throughout this building. The main materials used in the building envelope consist of concrete, glass, granite and steel. The curtain wall facade of this building uses large glass panels, framed with black granite framing. While the glass used for the lower box is completely transparent, the curtain wall for the upper seven floors uses fritted glass with a series of light gray circles, each approximately the size of a CD. This creates a protective screen that hinders view out from the building, but provides privacy to its users while reducing heat gain, and maintaining a certain level of sophistication is its aesthetics at the same time. Each of the twelve hypostyle columns are made of reinforced concrete.[35] The columns supporting the tower are Agilia Concrete, which is more enhanced in design effect and construction process compared to traditional concretes: it can be placed 50% faster than the traditional concrete, and form complex shapes that would have been impossible in previous years. Each colossal column spans spanning one meter in diameter and 19 meters high; each one was constructed in a single pour in order to achieve the highest quality and a sense of grace and elegance.[36] A striking urban colonnade is created through this series of columns; asserting its presence on campus while setting distinct boundaries between the street, public space of the campus and the privacy of the pharmacy faculty. Self-compacting concrete is used as the structural support system throughout the rest of the structure. The pods were constructed as “steel baskets” suspended by steel rods. The shells of these pods are constructed of structural steel and plaster and silver reflective paint are used for the finishes of these pods.


The Pharmacy Building's most prominent feature is its five-storey open atrium, complete with two suspended "pods". At night, these massive, orb-shaped, opaque structures are illumimnated with coloured stage lights.

The lighting effects are the work of Claude Engle, world-renowned engineer and theatrical lighting consultant, notable for his lighting schemes in The Louvre and the Reichstag.[37] The colours slowly cycle through the colour spectrum, and come alive as sun sets. Every 15 minutes, the pods change to different colours: red, green, blue, purple, and orange. Also, a reflection from the inside with different lights illuminating the pods causes mirror images over panes of glass, creating 6 more pods. The lighting is computer-controlled and uses simple PAR can spotlights and gels.

The windows for these floors are two-metre tall glass panels that allow an essentially uninterrupted view into the building. The enormous panels had to be imported from Belgium because only one supplier in the world would create panes of those proportions.[4]

The "pods" are two lecture halls suspended in mid-air. They are both "steel baskets" or "cages" constructed with a special structural steel known as "architecturally exposed structural steel".[38][39] For each pod, six steel arches were welded together, mounted with ball-and-socket rods and reinforced with steel bridges connecting each to a building floor, eliminating the need for shoring.[38][39] They are both suspended with steel hangers (10 in total) held in place with a ring truss system.[30][40] The truss system is integrated into the physical sixth floor, which was made of structural steel to provide the necessary support and is also supported by the steel framing integrated into the windows.[8][30] Finally, a 19.2 metre, 50 tonne transfer truss was integrated between the 6th and 7th floors to provide maximal support.[30]

The pods are coated with smoothed plaster and coated with opaque silver reflective paint to amplify the lighting effects.[2][8] Each pod also has a flat surface on which a lounge is situated. To enter the classrooms or a lounge, a catwalk must be crossed. These four bridges serve not only as an entrance and support, but also house all the electrical wires and other mechanical services that are necessary in each room.[30]

Is there anything more poetic than those colourfully-lit orbs?
Kelvin Browne, National Post[41]

The larger pod is a 60-seat lecture hall accessible from the 2nd floor. It is 3.5 metres from ground level.[40] Atop this pod, accessible from the 3rd floor, is the private student reading lounge.

Catwalks lead into and onto the larger pod.
Interior of the atrium

The smaller pod, accessible from the 4th floor, is a 24-seat classroom. The small faculty lounge is found atop this pod, accessible from the 5th floor.

The purpose of the pods is not merely aesthetic. While the atrium was specifically designed so openly to allow the older varsity buildings to show through, this resulted in a considerable cut in usable space. By creating these floating classrooms, the original effect is still maintained while still allowing this space to be functional.[30]


The first five above-ground floors of the 12-storey building are designed as an open-concept atrium, as described above. These floors are designated for study spaces and administrative offices. The remaining seven top floors, seen from the outside as a larger square atop the atrium with patterned glass windows, is home to the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy's researchers, graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and professors, along with numerous research labs, the Professional Practice Laboratory, and the Patheon Pharmaceutics Teaching Laboratory. The sixth through eighth floors are mainly used for student laboratories, tutorial and meeting rooms, as well as the faculty and research staff studying the social, economical, epidemiological and practical aspects of pharmacy and pharmaceutics, along with clinical research. The remaining floors are reserved for the pharmaceutical science "wet labs" (though many primary faculty members are located in the new Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research and the MaRS Centre).

Architectural intentions[edit]

The void which cuts through the entire height of the building, and this was intentionally done by the architect to visually connect the upper and lower spaces. This longitudinal void opens to a rooftop skylight, bringing in natural daylight into the atrium below. The typical dependence of artificial lighting for a building of this size would typically account for more than 13% of its electricity use.[36] However, with the installation of this void, a great portion of that cost is reduced. This spatial device was intended as a sustainable element of the design, as seen in many of Foster’s projects, it is an effective solution to reducing electricity consumption which is vital to a structure of this scale. The most important aspect that this vertical void contributes to the building is that is creates a distinctive social space for its users. Norman Foster has be experimenting and studying with the reconfiguration of spaces and the natural lighting conditions to redefine institutions. This void creates a vast, open, daylight space for the students to gather and relax in between classes.[36] Also, the 23 research laboratories and teaching laboratories are intentionally planned and organized in such a manner where they are fully integrated into other programs- service spaces for faculty members, students and administrators. These programs are connected by bridges which cross the void at the upper floors. As for the pods which are suspended in the middle of the atrium, these mysterious pods were intentionally designed to give the illusion of defying gravity due to their size and weight. One architectural detail that most be noted, the bottom of the glass-clad cube of the larger volume was specifically designed to line up with the cornices of its adjacent historic buildings.[35] Furthermore, the bottom of the new building will be transparent so that the older buildings will be visible through the lobby, says David Nelson of Foster and Partners.[42]

Energy and Sustainability[edit]

According to the University website the building uses a prodigious amount of energy, 775 kWh/m2 in 2009. This is more than twice the energy use per floor area of normal commercial buildings and ranks it as one of the most energy intensive buildings on the U of T campus. The energy consumption has since lowered to 263kWh/m2 in 2010.[43]


Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy Building

However, pharmacy at the University of Toronto is a deregulated program, meaning that the administration can set tuition fees free of the government restrictions placed on most undergraduate programs.[47] In September 2006, when the Pharmacy Building opened, the tuition and ancillary fees for domestic students had just increased from $10,653.48 to $11,117.98, over 4%.[48][49] This left students wondering why they were experiencing significant tuition increases when the Faculty had money for fancy lighting systems, pods, Belgian glass windows and famous architects.[5] Only 5 years later, in 2011, tuition fees were almost $15,000.

The pods may sometimes feel claustrophobic,[29] and their floating appearance deters acrophobes. Inner walls of the pods are lined with soundproof panels, which prevent echo and maximize audibility.

Popular culture[edit]

The building was used as the setting for the Umbrella Corporation's underground Tokyo headquarters in the 2010 film Resident Evil: Afterlife.


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External links[edit]