July 3, 2011

Box on Stilts

One of the stranger sights in downtown Toronto is a massive rectangular box, seemingly hovering in the air amid older, somewhat more conventional brethren. It looks like an alien import seeking a place to land.

This curious structure houses the Sharp Centre for Design at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD University).

Designed by Will Alsop (Alsop Architects), the structure is a parallelepiped 84 meters long, 31 meters wide, and 9 meters high.  It has two floors of teaching, studio, and office space. An elevator and stair core near one end connects the centre to the remainder of the college.

The box stands on 12 slender legs, which barely seem capable of supporting the structure. Indeed, it is built like half of a suspension bridge, so it is held up mainly by its central core, which acts like the tower at one end of a suspension bridge. Its legs serve as the equivalent of a suspension bridge's cables. The walls are nearly two feet thick to contain the massive, supporting steel framework.

Its entire surface is pixellated with a seemingly random smattering of black squares and rectangles, which play with the regular array of square windows. The red exit "tube" houses an extra stairwell for emergency use.

Photos by I. Peterson

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