The fundamental design challenge facing the proposed Innovation Centre in Toronto is how to unify program across two separate plots of land divided by a municipal road and to create a fully functional facility with a singular vision.
The design response is to focus on the void between the two sites. An elliptical Boolean subtraction, aligned with the summer solstice, has carved an entrance plaza from a single mass that visually spans the two component areas. The Solstice Court provides a forecourt for the building entrances located on either side whilst becoming an extension of the adjacent Sugar Beach, an urban beach park on Toronto’s harbour. This connection to the landscape beyond serves to draw public engagement deep into the heart of the Innovation Centre. In support of this civic gesture, a woonerf is created, a thoroughfare without supremacy for the automobile: the edges of the roadway passing through this space are marked with low bollards, rolled curbs and a homogenous paving pattern to emphasize its pedestrian and civic qualities. At the northern edge of this space, a monumental arch, created as a result of the volumetric extraction, makes a spectacular gateway to the plaza and to the entire urban waterfront precinct beyond.
The four-storey bridge that spans the street, designed as an essential and seamless component of the building volume rather than a separate and distinct element, marries the two sites into one and completes the façade over the arch. This linking geometry creates the singular vision that the Innovation Centre requires and creates a powerful, holistic design to leverage and embrace its relationship with the waterfront. Intentionally massed at a heroic scale, the building is both sympathetic to and evocative of, the typology historically found in industrial waterfront buildings.