SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

U of T is proposing to build a new nine-storey building on the site of the now-closed McLaughlin Planetarium in front of the Faculty of Music.

The proposed building at 90 Queen’s Park will become the new permanent home to the School of Cities, an interdisciplinary research hub focused on solving urban problems. The building will be designed to hold classrooms and public spaces, as well as a music recital hall, event hall, public plaza, and space for the Royal Ontario Museum next door.

There will also be facilities for the departments of History, Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, Islamic Studies, and Archaeology, as well as the Faculty of Music and the Faculty of Law, which are located nearby.

Pending further approval, construction will commence in June 2020, and the goal is for the project to be completed by spring 2023.

The music recital hall is one of the proposed building’s showpieces, as it is planned to have a large south-facing window showing the Toronto skyline as a backdrop.

The site is currently home to the McLaughlin Planetarium, which closed in 1995. The land was bought from the Royal Ontario Museum by the University of Toronto in 2009. Plans to replace it were first announced in 2016, prompting an ongoing campaign to preserve the planetarium.

In an email to The Varsity, Chief of University Planning, Design and Construction Gilbert Delgado wrote, “The new building at 90 Queen’s Park includes an 250-seat recital hall that can be used for student performances, and will draw talented artists to play at the university.”

Delgado added that student representatives were involved during the development of this project’s program and other key features. “All our major project designs are shared with the community through our Community Liaison Committee, which has student representation. As the project progresses, there will be more opportunities to hear from the public, including students,” Delgado continued.

Third-year music student Ricci Ebron told The Varsity that she would prefer if there were more practice rooms, as the faculty is lacking in this regard. She also wrote that the building could use an underpass to connect to the music faculty, which would make it easier to move large instruments from classrooms to the recital hall.

Delgado said that there are plans to build an interior walkway between the new building and the Edward Johnson Building, which is home to the Faculty of Music. 

The building has also been criticized by some students online for being ugly and failing to blend in with its surrounding environment.

Matteen Victory, a first-year law student, said that the building “invokes no sense of awe, no sense of wonder, no sense of culture, heritage, or craft.”

“The vandals behind this project have allowed empty function to replace artful form, and would see the campus marred by an awful postmodern tumour metastasizing out into the street, looming over the historical Philosopher’s Walk,” Victory wrote.

Mike Liu, a second-year music student, told The Varsity that he hopes to see the building dedicated to providing more practice rooms.

“While a new concert hall is great and the building seems that it will have a positive impact on the University, as a music student there are two things that are more important,” he wrote.

“If the university can get enough funding for a new concert hall, why can’t we get more practice rooms and more importantly, music stands? It seems we have complained about the lack of space and stands forever and yet the university never improves the situation.”

The building will be 43 metres tall and around 6,780 square metres. Plans also include incorporating the 118-year-old Falconer Hall, which is part of the Faculty of Law, into the design of the new building.

The building is being designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, an architecture firm behind New York’s High Line and Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art.

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