Inspired by the university’s layout in the late nineteenth century, plans to make pedestrians a priority in the historic core of King’s College Circle and its surrounding buildings are underway. The University of Toronto Landmark Committee shortlisted four proposals from their Landscape of Landmark Quality Innovative Design Competition in September 2015.
They are looking for faculty, staff, and student responses from all three campuses. “We’re selecting a proponent not just for their ideas, but how they are going to work with the community over this next year to develop the details about what we want to accomplish with this project,” said Scott Mabury, vice-president, university operations. “We want nothing less than for students to take ownership of this project. To say, yes, we want it to work better for us as we move to classes, as we move to have fun on King’s College Circle or Hart House Circle or Back Campus.”
Mabury, along with University College principal Donald Ainslie, are the Landmark Committee co-chairs, and have high hopes for the project. Mabury hopes to see it all done possibly three or four years down the road.
“I arrived to this campus 20 years ago and was enchanted by a walk around King’s College Circle,” Mabury said. “I just thought, wow, this is the most beautiful campus I had been on, to that point. It just resonated with me — that’s what a university looks like. But I noticed, why would we have so many cars?”
By moving parking elsewhere, not only would cars leave the scenery, but the committee also hopes to enhance the bicycling experience and provide recharging stations for electric cars and encourage carpooling. “I would love to be able to walk down the historic core and not worry about getting hit by a car,” Mabury said. “I would like to be able to do that in an environment that has optimized my engagement with the landscape and those historical buildings.
Visions of a more engaging campus began in 1999 with the Investing in the Landscape project and were revitalized by the back campus discussion. The lunar eclipse viewing event on King’s College Circle that brought thousands of the university community together last Sunday exemplified Mabury’s hopes for the public space.
“What it represented for me was this great potential,” Marbury said. “If we can get it so that the landscape is better organized and designed about how pedestrians need to move and engage, then the potential of having events like that is tremendous. We can have great events because the landscape and the organization of that reflects a more human scale, as opposed to a vehicle scale.”
All proposals would also come with a site plan so that buildings and parking are still accessible during construction. Funding would come from advancements, thus leaving tuition prices unaffected by the project.
The four teams entered in the design competition were selected based on design experience and public engagement.
KPMB Architects + Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates + Urban Strategies
This group proposes more outside seating and plazas. It hopes to add a pavilion at Prichard House and one at the Medical Science building to replace the set of stairs currently filling the space. An elevated pedestrian bridge from King’s College Circle to Queen’s Park Crescent and a pedestrian pathway on Tower Road also stand out.
DTAH + Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates
To get rid of parking in the core, they propose vehicle drop off lanes on Galbraith, while making Convocation Plaza a space for pedestrians. Looking to the future, they have also suggested seasonal events to take place in the plazas, such as farmer’s markets. They included a pond for collecting storm water, and underground parking with a staircase smoothing out the transition from parking garage to green space.
This proposal would replace the current parking facilities spots in front of Knox and University colleges with gardens, as well as introduce a pond by Hart House. They propose a subtle lift to King’s College Circle to create a plaza, and ornamental ideas like an alumni circle for carving the years of graduating classes onto the King’s College Circle path, inspired by the carvings on University College.
Janet Rosenberg & Studio + architectsAlliance + ERA Architects
With a focus on all four seasons at U of T, they have proposed heat-traced pathways, a skating trail for winter, and more outdoor seating for warmer months. They also propose parking beneath King’s College Circle. Rather than a pond, they have designed a reflecting pool by the University of Toronto Students’ Union building with pedestrian boardwalks.
The proposals can be viewed at www.landmark.utoronto.ca. An announcement of the final selection is expected in November.