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That Weird Old Building on Spadina Crescent is About to Get a Major Revamp

Almost 140 years old, One Spadina Crescent is about to be born again.

As expected, the University of Toronto announced today that it’s going to be redesigning and revamping One Spadina Crescent, otherwise known as the weird, vaguely menacing old building in the middle of the circle north of College Street.

Now, after decades of letting the 138-year-old Gothic Revival building slowly turn ramshackle, the university says it will be putting $45 million in contributions—including $19 million from architect John H. Daniels and his wife Myrna—towards turning the property into a new home for its John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design. (The total project cost is expected to be $62 million.)

The proposed design—which you can see if you click through the image gallery above—would definitely make a difference at Spadina Crescent, and that’s no trivial thing. If you think about it, the circle is one of Toronto’s most visible addresses. It’s right in the middle of a major thoroughfare. How many cars and streetcars pass it every day? How many pedestrians lay eyes on it as they walk past the intersection of College Street and Spadina Avenue?

The design, by Nader Tehrani of NADAAA and Katie Faulkner, calls for a new addition to the building. The turrets and the south facade are expected to retain their existing appearances, more or less, but the north facade is shown in renderings as a kind of glassy prism. There would be a new roof, which a press release says would “bathe the building’s interior in natural light.”

Inside, there would be new studios, labs, and a public gallery. The area around the building would be newly landscaped, and would have what the university calls “pavilions”—smaller structures that would house some programs, including a new Institute for Architecture and Human Health.

One Spadina Crescent was originally built in either 1874 or 1875, depending upon who you believe, to serve as the home of Knox College, a Presbyterian school. It was a military hospital during World War I and a medical laboratory after that. U of T bought the property in 1972, after which it was used for a variety of purposes both academic and non-, including storage for the Eyebank of Canada. Until recently, it was used by the university’s visual studies program. At least two people have died there in the past 15 years, one from stab wounds and the other from injuries sustained after an accidental fall.

The revamp is scheduled for completion in 2015.

Images courtesy of the University of Toronto.


  • Fr

    The new North side looks great, but I’m apprehensive about the West/East sides. The new addition seems to clash with the old more from this view.

  • SmarterThanYou86

    I’m excited that this building will finally be used again and as a U of T alum, I’m looking forward to visiting when it’s complete – when I was at the school from 2005-2009 – it was always kinda spooky to be around (especially given some of the history), I wonder if the renovation will send the ghosts packing :P

  • Duncan McCaul

    OH NO!! Not another Crystal! Just like Libeskind’s ROM disaster, this looks like a space ship crashed into a 19th century heritage building. It’s like the Lady Gaga outfit of architecture. I’m all for modern architecture, but please show some sensitivity to context – people will have to live with this for a long time.

    • HotDang

      Maybe if you spent more time developing a cheaper alternative to metal, concrete and glass construction and less time harping on about Lady Gaga we wouldn’t be in this mess.

    • OgtheDim

      Personally, I like the ROM.

      Beats the heck out of turning a heritage building into a Club Monaco.

    • Canadianskeezix

      For better or worse, the accepted wisdom in the architectural and heritage preservation communities is that new additions to historic buildings should complement the older structure, but the addition should stand on its own and shouldn’t mimic the older building or engage in Disney-esque recreation of the older architectural style.

      While I think there is a bit too much rigid adherence to this view, I really don’t understand the nonsensical comments like the one above about the space-ship crashing into the ROM. I have issues with the Crystal, but the interplay between the historic ROM buildings and the modern Crystal is not one of them.

  • OgtheDim

    Ok, I gotta say it. What is it with the University and trying to block out the existence of the city around it?

    Its in EVERY thing the university does.

    In this case, where the heck is the streetcar? its an integral part of the interaction between the site and the city.