The University of Toronto
60 Harbord Street
Ontario M5S 3L1
Morphosis with Teeple Architects 2000
Graduate House was built for the University of Toronto to provide residence
accommodation for Graduate students on the downtown St. George Campus.
Located on the corner of Harbord Street and Spadina Avenue, Graduate House
serves as an anchor to the main west entrance to the campus. The eight-story
residence encloses over 23,000 square meters of floor area, and accommodates
475 students In addition to dormitory rooms, the ground floor has a cafe,
convenience store, and amenity spaces. This building is the first in a line
of a contemporary generation of prominent buildings in Toronto designed by
famous foreign architects including
Alsop, Benisch, Foster,
Liebeskind, and Gehry.
The building creates a strong, bold street edge along Spadina Avenue, with a
glass and steel 'bridge' thrusting halfway across Harbord Street to demand
additional attention. Horizontal ribbing in the dark, gunmetal gray cladding
frames both punches and ribbons of windows. Along Harbord Street, the facade
is composed of a combination of metal screens, metal cladding, and
stucco. To the east, a dual facade of intermittent strip windows, veiled by
a perforated metal screen, characterizes the facade.
Of particular interest is the 'bridge' above Harbord Street, dressed with
the super graphics 'UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO', all of the letters are embossed
on glass with frit, with the final 'O' figured in three dimensions.
Elsewhere on the campus, key entrances are treated as gateways, and the
addition by Morphosis and Teeple Architects to the campus continues this
tradition in a bold and modern way.
The building is dominated by the bold Spadina Avenue facade, the dark
precast concrete surface and deep relief creates a foreboding appearance. A
gap in the facade reveals a mundane courtyard around which the housing is
wrapped. The south-facing Harbord Street Facade is similarly assertive, with
its layered treatment of perforated sinusoidal aluminium and slipping
planes. While the site is rectangular, the architects chose to push potions
of the Harbord Street facade subtly askew to create more space on the
sidewalk and to add interest where planes are allowed to slip. This
predominance of the skew in plan is seen elsewhere in each architect's work,
and is a generator of order and interest.
The building is distinctive and very assertive in its context. Once is left
with the feeling that it is a bit mean for its rather ordinary
surroundings. Fortress-like, it invokes feelings of a high-class
penitentiary, rather than supportive and innovative student housing. In a
city known for its human-scaled streets and generous housing mix, the
addition of Graduate House exhibits a distinct take on housing in the
city. The building is, however, an interesting predecessor to some of the
buildings that have followed from Morphosis; the super graphics, structural
expression, and bold lines continue to characterize their work. Many of the
same themes are similarly characterized in subsequent work by Teeple.
How to visit
Graduate House is located on the St. George Campus of the University of
Toronto, on the east side of Spadina Avenue at Harbord Street.
By subway: The Spadina Subway line runs past the building to the west. Exit
at Bloor Station and walk south on Spadina Avenue. The building is on the
North-east corner of Spadina Avenue and Harbord Street.
By streetcar: From the north or south, take the Spadina Street Car (known as
the 'TTC'), disembarking at Harbord Street.
Graduate House is a private residence and has limited access. Ground level
features are accessible, as is the courtyard.