University of Toronto Graduate House

The University of Toronto Graduate House architectural experiment was a success. It is a welcome experience to the academic and creative ambition that the university strongly encourages. Architect Thom Mayne’s deconstructionist principles towards design are evident in the harsh defensive exterior done in dark gray concrete and screens facing out onto the streets that contrast with the light and open interior courtyard; further showing the delamination occurring across the different portions of the building façade. The interior is minimal and bare, with densely packed programming and small but elegant accommodations for public space. The interior hallway, turned exterior cornice and signage to the main campus entry dominates the west elevation and proclaims loudly “University of Toronto” across the entire building length. Stephen Teeple, the co-architect, played his part in accommodating student living and creating usable and comfortable skip-stop apartment suites that separate private and public into two floors. The deconstruction of the exterior is reflected in the interior finishes of exposed concrete and steel framing, an innovative yet risky design strategy for student housing that had earned the building the Progressive Architecture Award, the Canadian Architecture Award, and the American Institute of Architects Award. The design is aggressive yet not obscene, and it does not try to offend, even though it has and will continue to do so in the near future. And for that experimental and innovative stance within downtown Toronto, it has earned our respect.

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