A distinctive cultural force in Ontario, OCAD's impetus to expand comes with a growing recognition at national level of the contribution of the creative industries to Canada's modern economy. The decision to employ Alsop was based upon a significant track record in the design of cultural buildings of enduring effectiveness and appeal which also offered iconic representation of the client body as the school enters a new age.
Following the appointment, Will Alsop instigated a series of client workshops in which early concepts were developed with college staff and students. During this time, conventional ideas of teaching, learning and architecture were explored as the group sought to redefine their new college of art and design. The participants exchanged sketches and ideas that lead to the development of a basic strategy. These original ideas are embodied in the final scheme, a flying, translucent rectangle or 'table top' vividly patterned with a colourful pixellated skin, raised eight storeys from the ground and housing the new Faculty of Design.
The project unifies the existing brick structures beneath the 'table top', the park to the west and McCaul Street to the east. Views to the park are preserved for OCAD's neighbours across McCaul Street, who participated in the consultation process. The park will also benefit from the area's regeneration and, restored, will be the home to contemporary sculpture and school events.
Programming works in collaboration with OCAD and Alsop have accommodated all the elements of a complex client group. In addition to the teaching and administrative spaces the project also incorporates gallery spaces, design and research centres, lounge and meeting rooms, specific craft and metalwork workshops and design critique spaces. The college satisfies its aspirations to revive a neglected area of town by inviting in the public to visit galleries and cafe spaces in the new building. OCAD contributes distinctive design and revived public areas, internal and external to this quarter of the city.
Photo credits: ALL Design, Peter Dušek