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ARC wins prestigious architectural award

AWARD WINNER: The Academic Resource Centre has won a design excellence award from the Ontario Association of Architects. (Photo by Ken Jones.)

by Aurora Herrera

The Academic Resource Centre at the University of Toronto Scarborough has won an architectural design award from the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA).

Designed by Brian MacKay-Lyons in association with Rounthwaite, Dick & Hadley Architects, the Academic Resource Centre (ARC) was among 15 structures from across the province to win an award in the organization’s Design Excellence category.

“The ARC building is a signature addition to the U of T Scarborough campus, and it is well conceived and integrated into that precinct of the larger campus. The library space was particularly commended,” said Shirley Blumberg, chair of this year’s jury. “Design excellence considers all aspects of a building, aesthetic design and social and environmental sustainability.”

The award recognizes the quality of design in the structure, said Ted Relph, a geography and social sciences professor at U of T Scarborough. The former special advisor to the principal on campus development, he attended the OAA awards ceremony and annual meeting, and accepted the prize on behalf of the campus community.

“The exterior of the building is considered to be visually very powerful, with strong shapes that echo the forms of the original poured concrete buildings of the Humanities Wing,” said Relph. “The ARC is clad in copper – a material that will weather and age in a distinctive way – and that is very unusual. The interior is based on a strong grid of walkways and sightlines, and continues the interior pedestrian street system of the original 1960s buildings.”

Bright as a new penny, the copper-clad facility opened in 2003 with several hundred additional study spaces, improved work space and other features. Inside the library, the Sun Microsystems Informatics Commons provides a large computer study area. The 9,000-square metre facility also features a 500-seat theatre that can be used for musical performances as well as academic lectures. Using a simple palate of wood, copper and concrete, the design was described as creating a series of accessible spaces with light-flooded interiors.

The OAA is a self-governing organization that represents 2,500 licensed architects across the province, as well as 1,200 intern architects, and 750 associates who are honorary, lifetime, retired, and student partners. There are 1,325 architectural practices in Ontario. The organization recognizes and awards outstanding architectural work at its annual meeting. This year’s OAA meeting was held in Niagara Falls

This is the ARC’s first architectural award, according to Relph. The considerations were based on six categories: creativity, context, program, environment, good design is good business, and legacy. Creativity is defined as innovation in the design solution; context is the contribution the structure brings to the community; program is the role played by the architect in addressing unique issues; environment is the level of sustainability; good design is good business examines how well the business and architectural goals of the client are met; and legacy examines the ability of the architect to reach a new height in excellence. In total, the organization received 162 submissions to three categories; Design Excellence, Concepts and Presentation; and Best Emerging Practice.

The ARC was completed in 2003 and was the first new large building erected on campus since 1971. According to Relph, it replaced the existing library and more than doubled the size of the original facility. Funding for the ARC project was supported by the Government of Ontario.

Three other University of Toronto buildings were also honoured by the OAA. The St. George campus was recognized for the Multi-Faith Centre for Spiritual Study and Practice on the St. George campus. The University of Toronto Mississauga excelled with two buildings: The Hazel McCallion Academic Learning Centre and the Recreation, Athletic and Wellness Centre. In addition, several more University of Toronto buildings have earned other prestigious architectural awards from other groups and institutions recently. For details on the others, click here. 

For more on the Ontario Association of Architects and the 2008 awards, visit:

Aurora Herrera is a fourth-year student in the joint journalism program offered by U of T Scarborough and Centennial College. She is currently working as an intern in the office of marketing and communications.

© University of Toronto Scarborough