Yesterday evening George Brown College hosted teams of renowned architectural firms to present their innovative design concepts for the college's planned tall-wood structure “The Arbour”. Described as the college’s “most ambitious project yet”, The Arbour aims to set a precedent for “smart” eco-friendly, timber structures in Toronto and help shape the city’s growing waterfront community. A five member jury is in deliberation today considering each team's unique approach to adaptable and sustainable design while addressing needs to the college. Following the deliberations, one of the four designs will be chosen to become The Arbour, expanding and enhancing George Brown's presence along Toronto's waterfront.

The Arbour at George Brown College Waterfront Campus, tall wood building TorontoFour finalist designs for The Arbour, image courtesy of George Brown College

Anne Sado, President of George Brown College and member on the final selection jury, opened presentations by stating “The Arbour will be a high impact architectural addition to our waterfront, and a model of great and sustainable construction.” Sado continued, explaining that “as a public space, we hope that The Arbour will serve as an example to the community on how we can incorporate sustainability into all aspects of our lives, including the buildings where we learn, work and play.”

The Arbour at George Brown College Waterfront Campus, tall wood building TorontoAnne Sabo, President of George Brown College, presents opening remarks, photo by Nathan Petryshyn

The jury consists of members from George Brown College, the City, and the architecture and planning industry. Rick Huijbregts, VP of Strategy & Innovation joins Sado as a juror representing George Brown, additionally serving as the Jury Chair. Representing the City of Toronto is Fernando Carou, from the Community Energy Planning & Low Carbon Department. Chris Glaisek, VP for Planning and Design from Waterfront Toronto and Heather Dubbeldam, Principal Architect at Dubbeldam Architecture and Design, hold the remaining spots on the jury.

The Arbour at George Brown College Waterfront Campus, tall wood building TorontoPublic reviewing the final four designs, photo by Nathan Petryshyn

Each presentation offered solutions that fulfill requirements of the college while they overcome technical challenges of building a tall-wood structure. With the goal of achieving LEED certification, each presentation outlined the importance of innovation and 'smart' technologies, with most designs including sensors and systems throughout the building, allowing the college to learn, grow and adapt with the structure. Concerns surrounding durability, longevity and safety were addressed, with the intention of future proofing The Arbour as a lasting structure, its ability to adapt as the needs of the college change over time. Luigi Ferrara, Dean of the Centre for Arts, Design and Information Technology explained the importance of adaptability, noting “at one point the college used to teach watchmaking, but now we don’t, and in 50 years we could be teaching many new things as new technologies emerge, so creating a building that can adapt over time and change as the college grows is important.”

The Arbour at George Brown College Waterfront Campus, tall wood building TorontoModels of the final four designs, photo by Nathan Petryshyn

The architects were also conscious to create a design that would become a landmark in the community. “It’s really heartwarming to see how the neighbourhood has changed” Sado mentioned, “We helped shape the community with our presence, and hope [The Arbour] will become a hub in the community.” The designers responded by creating at-grade open spaces and setbacks for wider streetscapes and an enhanced public realm. Most designs featured large entrance spaces and open atriums facing the intersection of Queens Quay and Sherbourne Street as a way of inviting the public into the space. Sado hopes The Arbour will help “anchor the community by bringing in a vibrant student presence to the area.”

A video released by George Brown College earlier today explains the vision behind each structure and additional design features offered by the finalists.

Once a design is chosen, George Brown College will be one step closer to creating Toronto’s first tall-wood structure. Although not yet approved under current Ontario Building Code, George Brown is hopeful development of the structure will proceed as planned through cooperation and open communication between the College, the City, and the Province.

We will return with updates as further details on The Arbour emerge. In the meantime, you can review additional renderings from the four finalists by visiting the project's database file, linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the field provided at the bottom of this page.