Parliament Data Centre Plans for a Changing Streetscape

Torontoist

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Parliament Data Centre Plans for a Changing Streetscape

We spoke with the architect behind Corktown's new computer centre to find out how the building was designed for a street in transition.

Data Centre photo courtesy of the Ideas Lab.

How does an architect design a building for a streetscape that is both rich in historical context and set to change dramatically in the near future?

“It’s kind of like if you have a backyard knowing that one day there will be a street beside it,” says Nicola Casciato, a principal at WZMH architects. “You’ll probably have to design the back of your house differently.”

Casciato’s firm was tasked with the design for the new Parliament Street Data Centre near the city’s historic Distillery District. The five-storey, 22,000-square-metre development was designed to accommodate its existing mid-block placement, but also with attention paid to waterfront renewal plans that will re-contextualize the building’s facades. In other words, the design would have to be sympathetic with the existing structures and with future planning schemes.

“The building just faces one street now, but in the future it will face two streets,” says Casciato. “There’s a parking lot in front of it at the moment that is proposed to become public green space. The building had to be designed with that in mind.”

The building also, as Casciato points out, had to somehow look cool without windows—because the building is intended to mostly house computers, as it’s largely windowless. Despite this deviation from the neighbouring building stock, the data centre’s terra cotta colouring gives it local context—consider the palette of the Distillery District—while its textures are reminiscent of data processing.

“The technology that led to the development of punch cards was used as a patterning on the building itself,” says Casciato.

An 80 column punch card from 1964  Photo via Wikimedia Commons

An 80-column punch card from 1964. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

The space age edifice at 45 Parliament is set to welcome its earliest cohort of tenants in the new year.

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