The Sharp Centre for Design
Ontario College of Art & Design
100 McCaul Street
Alsop Architects (Robbie/Young+Wright
Architects - local architects) 2004.
The Sharp Centre for Design was
built to accommodate an expansion of the Ontario College of Art &
Design in downtown Toronto. The project was funded by the College, the
Province of Ontario, and Rosalie and Isadore Sharp - the benefactors after
whom the building is named. The building houses new art studios, lecture
theaters, exhibit spaces, and faculty offices. It is the first building
completed in North America by the English architect Will Alsop.
The center is a two-story, black
and white rectangular volume set atop brightly colored, 26 meter tall
columns, straddling existing buildings of the College. In addition to this
most visible part of the building, an unbuilt space between existing
buildings was filled, creating space for new functions while providing the
elevator and stair core that services the upper levels. Located on a quiet
side street between two main commercial streets, its immediate neighbors
include midrise housing, a food court, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the
Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art (temporary location), and Grange Park, a
treed community park immediately south of the Art Gallery of Ontario. From
Grange Park the black and white volume creates a delightful edge as it
hovers on its stilts.
With the addition of the Sharp
Centre for Design at the Ontario College of Art and Design, Will Alsop
cleverly addresses the complicated notion of expansion in a dense urban
setting with his soaring black and white box. The building stitches a
connection between existing buildings while providing new space in the
rectangular volume that proudly soars above. Organizing the rectangular
block above the site allows the street level to become what promises to be
a new and valuable civic space that can become an extension of the
activities of the college. Still the building may be criticized for being
somewhat exclusive, failing to offer a serious connection to the street.
However regardless of this consideration one cannot help but believe that
there is room in Toronto for this type of assertive expression.
hopeful, whimsical, and perhaps irreverent, the building is remarkable in
the context of Toronto. As a winner of a 2004 RIBA Worldwide Award, the
building was described as "courageous, bold and just a little
insane." Alsop's project seems perfectly fitting for a college of art
and design in a city criticized for competent, but ordinary, architecture.
Interestingly, what we see is far less wild than the scheme originally
envisaged by Alsop - early representations show the rectangular volume
dressed in a dizzying array of day-glow colors. In this light, the simple
pre-finished metal cladding seems somehow consequential, and perhaps a
hint to difficulties involved in achieving such an unconventional
building. Above all, the building may be considered optimistic, and
hopefully sets a course for the students who will occupy it.
The city block upon which the
Sharp Centre sits is also home to the Art Gallery of Ontario, set to be
'transformed' in the near future by an expansion designed by Frank Gehry.
2004 (updated 2008)
How to visit
The Sharp Centre for Design is
located on McCaul Street, just south of Dundas Street, and north of Queen
Street. It stands approximately one kilometer straight north of the CN
By Subway: Take the University
Line Subway to St.Patrick Station. Walk west on Dundas Street to McCaul.
By Street Car (called 'the TTC'
in Toronto): Take the Dundas Street Car to McCaul Street and walk south on
McCaul; or, take the Queen Street Car to McCaul Street and walk north on
The upper levels of the building
are not generally open to the public, but the lower parts are accessible.
For further information please
visit the Ontario College's web site at www.ocad.ca
+1 416 977 6000.
Books and other web
can visit Alsop Architects' web site at www.alsoparchitects.com,
though it may take you some time to find what you are looking for
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