Earlier this week, George Brown College announced the winning selection for a competition to design The Arbour, proposed to become Toronto’s first tall wood structure. Moriyama & Teshima Architects of Toronto and Acton Ostry Architects of Vancouver joined forces, offering innovative solutions in their design while enhancing Toronto’s waterfront community. Following extensive deliberation, this all-Canadian design was chosen to become George Brown's latest building, expanding their presence in the city, and paving the way for tall-wood construction in Ontario.

The Arbour at George Brown College Waterfront Campus, tall wood building TorontoThe Arbour, designed by Moriyama & Teshima Architects + Acton Ostry Architects, image courtesy of George Brown College

A jury consisting of 5 members, including Anne Sado, president of George Brown College, considered a number of criteria when finalizing their decision. “It was a wonderful jury team”, Sado told UrbanToronto. “Every person has a different background, and noted different qualities of each design. We had a good dialogue and discussion, and it was beneficial to have different voices around the table to help make our decision”.

The jury reviewed four points when coming to an agreement :

  • overall design quality, 
  • designing to fit within the existing neighbourhood context, 
  • capacity to achieve technical and performance targets, and 
  • cost effectiveness.

The jury also received written reports by technical experts in various fields, providing in-depth assessments of each design. “It was very tough decision, as there were many beautiful aspects from all presentations,” Sado remarked, “but I feel very good about the choice we’ve made”, adding that the jury “reached a unanimous decision” on the final design following careful review and consideration.

The Arbour at George Brown College Waterfront Campus, tall wood building TorontoViews from The Arbour, image via George Brown College

The win marks a new milestone for the both design firms, with Carol Phillips, Partner at Moriyama & Teshima Architects, commenting “I definitely feel The Arbour gives the firm a renewed sense of purpose by creating social and public buildings in a way that we can know the construction will be socially responsible and environmentally responsible.” As the firm celebrates its 60th anniversary, Phillips notes this selection “opens up a whole new future.” “We’ve been striving for years to work on buildings that use less energy and recycled projects, but this is a whole new level.”

The Arbour at George Brown College Waterfront Campus, tall wood building TorontoThe Atrium of the Arbour, designed by Moriyama & Teshima Architects + Acton Ostry Architects, image courtesy of George Brown

The final design features a triple-height atrium and ascending seat-stairs rising alongside the Martin Goodman Trail and Queens Quay East, telling the story of tall wood transformed. A solar chimney ecologically captures and harnesses light and air for sustainable natural ventilation, drawing students up through the building to the 'breathing rooms.' “The breathing room design offers a collaboration space, and space for students to use the natural environment”, Sado noted, recalling design elements that stood out to the jury.

Over time, the needs of the college change and departments are allowed to shift as the structure enables demising walls to expand and contract, providing flexibility of sizes for a variety of learning spaces. As all mass wood components will be sourced nationally, The Arbour is poised to set a precedent for the approval of exposed mass wood high-rise buildings and “accelerate the development of the Canadian forest products industry.”

The Arbour at George Brown College Waterfront Campus, tall wood building TorontoCross-section of the Arbour, image via George Brown College

There is still work to be done to see The Arbour come to fruition, including changes to Ontario’s Building Code and further approvals from the City. “We’ve had very productive discussions already, and I was very heartened to see how many City representatives were at the presentations.” Sado noted. “The dialogue between us has been open and we have been working strongly together.” George Brown College, Moriyama & Teshima, and Acton Osprey are all hopeful for the success of The Arbour moving forward. “The mandate was to keep the solutions simple, so the clearer and more succinct the project, the easier it will be to take the next steps with the City of Toronto while maintaining the design integrity” Phillips explains, emphasizing the firms' commitment to smooth discussion and collaboration.

The Arbour at George Brown College Waterfront Campus, tall wood building TorontoLooking northwest to the Arbour, image via George Brown College

Linked below, a video courtesy of the George Brown College will guide you through the new space, providing a detailed look The Arbour’s innovative technologies and design excellence.

We will return with updates as further details on The Arbour emerge. In the meantime, you can review additional renderings and the three designs also considered 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.