The North American competition-winning design for the renovation and expansion of the historic Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto responds directly to the client’s ambition to create a law school among the finest in the world. The redevelopment comes in response to the external reviews, which called for significant upgrading of the buildings that house the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law. Internationally acclaimed for its diverse faculty, highly sought-after students, and distinguished alumni, the law school’s academic, extracurricular, and co-curricular programs have grown dramatically and the number of faculty members has more than doubled over the past few decades. While these changes have enhanced the quality of legal education and ensured that the University of Toronto has remained Canada’s preeminent law school, they have also left the law school in desperate need of space. Hariri Pontarini Architects’ competition-winning design involves the careful weaving of history with a contemporary vision of community that is at the heart of the design.
The Faculty’s Dean Mayo Moran has championed this design as a landmark building at the Faculty’s privileged position between Queen’s Park and Philosophers’ Walk. The design responds with three simple gestures: a crescent-shaped classroom and office wing overlooking Queen’s Park, the renovation of an outmoded library as a luminous pavilion connecting to Philosophers’ Walk, and the creation of a unifying gathering space, the Law Forum, to bring a new heart to the Faculty. Working from the insight that the quality of the social network and unified sense of community are the most important advantages a law school can confer upon its students, the Law Forum answers the need for a galvanizing social space to bring students and faculty together in a singular gesture, permitting the previously fragmented Faculty to function as a unified, coherent community. The Forum is the focal point of all social activities, circulation and passage, the animated heart for events and celebrations, the open centre that links old and new. Like its ancient Roman precedent, the Forum is a place of animated conversation and debate, while laying the foundations of the social networks that are the informal basis of a broad humanist education and understanding of the justice systems.
The idea behind the design of the Faculty’s new building project intended to take advantage of the law school’s prominent location by introducing new physical and visual connections with both Queen’s Park and Philosopher’s Walk, keeping in mind that the precinct should not be considered in isolation, but rather as part of an integrated campus system. The scheme creates an institutional landmark that will accommodate and augment the faculty’s historic buildings, engage and inspire members of our community, reflect a commitment to leading-edge environmental sustainability and physical accessibility, while playing an important part in the architecture of the city.