Looking up from the concourse to the glass wall beside the amphiteatre, image, Jack Landau

Although the TTC's future York University Station sits on the campus of one of Canada's largest post-secondary institutions, a visit to the station provides a lesson in basic high-school geometry.

At the surface level, the site is all curves.

About 1,900 TTC and GO Transit buses circle the oblong Harry W. Arthurs Common at the centre of York University's Keele campus every weekday. (York Region Transit/Viva and Brampton Transit buses contribute another 600 daily trips nearby on the campus.) Oval portals protrude from the common—marking emergency exits or ventilation shafts—hint at the station box below. Finally, the sleek curves of the parabolic station building dominate the west end of the Common.

The station site is on the east end of the Harry W. Arthurs Common on York's Keele campus, image, TTC

Joanna Kervin, the TTC's director for Third-Party Planning and Property and Peter Boyce, the station's site construction manager, recently led members of the UrbanToronto team on a tour of the site. Although the station is still covered in construction dust, it certainly appears to be almost ready to welcome passengers and subway trains.

At the Toronto Transit Commission meeting of October 23, 2008, the TTC awarded the design contract for the station to a team led by Arup Canada Inc. The architectural firm is Foster & Partners of London, England.

The station project incorporates several environmental initiatives, including:

  • A cool roof and green roofs;
  • Higher daylight levels to reduce electric lighting power usage;
  • Light-emitting diode (LED) lighting in pylon signs, and energy-efficient lighting in illuminated wayfinding;
  • Water-efficient plumbing fixtures;
  • An energy-efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system;
  • Less storm-water runoff into the municipal drainage system by using green-roof landscaping and soft, landscaping areas beside other building runoff areas;
  • 26 short-term bicycle parking spaces; and
  • Landscaping with native and drought tolerant species.

Rendering of the station building looking east along the Common, image, TTC

The Schulich School of Business to the southeast and the new provincial archives, Kaneff Research Tower and York Lanes to the northwest constrained construction. Unlike the other new stations on the future subway extension, builders could not include launch and extraction shafts at each end of the station for the tunnel-boring machines (TBMs). Instead, the TBMs dug continuously between Pioneer Village and Finch West stations. When crews started excavating the site, they also had to remove the tunnel liners before they could continue digging.

Map of the TTC's Line 1 extension to York University and Vaughan, image, TTC

We started our tour on Ian Macdonald Boulevard, on the east side of the station structure, away from the entrances. From this side, pedestrians, transit passengers and motorists can gaze westward through the transparent station walls to the common beyond and the Ross Humanities Building at its far western end.

Joanna Kervin and Peter Boyce led us toward Ian Macdonald and York Boulevards--and the station site, photo, Jack Landau

The main entrance on the opposite, western, side of the structure includes two covered entry wings rising to the north and south sides of the Common. The entrance also contains a light-well from the Common, further harvesting the daylight into the concourse and offering passengers views to Vari Hall and the main part of the campus.

The swooping roof above the south-west entrance, photo, Jack Landau

A major element of this station design is the roof over the upper concourse and entrances in the Common. The metal "cool" roof has high solar reflectance and absorbs little heat.

The swooping roof links the two entrance pavilions. Passengers enter the station through sliding doors at the wings, one on the north side of the Common and one on the south near the Accolade East building. The north entrance contains stairs and escalators down to the concourse level. The south entrance includes both stairs and an elevator to provide a barrier-free route with a ramp at concourse level.

A closer view of the south-west entrance into the station, photo, Jack Landau

Standing seam-anodized aluminum panels cover the roof, while more anodized aluminum cladding decorates the ring beam. The glazing is bird-friendly fritted glass in painted steel-curtain wall framing, allowing natural light to beam down to the concourse level.

An emergency exit structure emerges to exit at grade on the plaza in front of the archives. A second emergency exit surfaces beside the Schulich on the south side of York Boulevard. The emergency exit buildings and secure bicycle storage area also have green roofs with opaque glass panels.

Looking down from the edge of the amphitheatre bowl toward the concourse level of the station, image, Jack Landau

A deep bowl extends outside the structure from surface to concourse level. Kervin explained that the TTC intends to landscape the rounded wall of this amphitheatre with a range of hardy flowering plants. The goal is that the various plants bloom throughout the year, colouring the otherwise plain interior of the station. This area will be off-limits to pedestrians, although visitors can sit on benches along the upper edge of the well. The builders have lined the bottom of the well with permeable tiles. The tiles, in turn, hide tanks to store storm-surge water and prevent major weather events from flooding the station.

View of the curved amphitheatre wall from inside the station. The TTC intends to fill this wall with flowers. Image, Jack Landau

Looking up from the concourse to the glass wall beside the amphitheatre, photo, Jack Landau

On the concourse level the curved geometry of the station exterior gives way to the angular interior, photo, Jack Landau

Inside the station, the geometry lesson continues, except the designers abandoned curves for straight lines and angles. V-like structures—columns and support beams—dominate the interior. The angular theme is appropriate since the future subway line crosses under the site from southeast to northwest, so the station box is at a different angle than the exterior station structure, which has an north-south orientation.

Entering the concourse level, we learned that, like other stations on the new extension, York University Station will not include a fare collectors booth. Instead of collectors, mobile customer-service station agents will rove the station to guide passengers or help with problems. Beside the stairs and escalators to the concourse, passengers will, nevertheless, still find a glass booth--but that will be a touchdown station for the customer-service agent. The triangular-booth continues the interior geometric theme of lines and angles.

This triangular glass booth is not for paying fares, but is a touchdown station for customer-service agents, photo, Jack Landau

The TTC expects that, by the end of this year, when the new line opens for service, most passengers will pay fares with PRESTO cards. When we visited the site, crews were getting ready to install the PRESTO-enabled fare gates.

Crews are getting ready to install PRESTO-enabled fare gates, image, Jack Landau

Moving past the future fare-line led us directly onto bridges for accessing stairs, escalators, and elevators to and from the platform. The central bridge includes a knock-out panel that could connect to a future development on the north-east quadrant of Ian Macdonald with York Boulevard. The concourse level is also home for TTC "back-of-house" service spaces, including the emergency ventilation fans.

Rendering of the concourse level, image, TTC

Large white ceramic wall panels with structural elements in concrete clad the walls. Grey terrazzo floors and stairs are dark granite with nosings in a paler colour, providing contrast to meet TTC barrier-free design standards. The guardrails around the ramps and vertical circulation openings are stainless steel frames with tempered-laminated glass panels.

V-shaped support beams and columns are a feature of the concourse, photo, Jack Landau

Boyce told us that the concrete ceiling above the concourse required a continuous 15-hour pour to complete. Temporary columns supported this ceiling until contractors could build the many V-shaped concrete columns supporting it. Crews poured concrete into forms, unusually from the bottom up, to construct these columns.

A public art process selected Jason Bruges as the artist for the station. The dynamics of people and vehicles moving through the built environment intrigues Bruges, so he developed his piece, "Piston Effect". The work is a series of glass panels on the east walls of the concourse and the smoke duct above the east trainway. An array of liquid crystal displays (LCDs) on the back of these panels can dynamically vary in tone between black and white. The result is a huge electronic screen that can also show images.

Renderings of the public art installation, "Piston Effect", by Jason Bruges, image, TTC

The public art installation reflects images of TTC workers and the concourse, photo, Jack Landau

According to the artist, “Station air movement is the invisible element explored in this artwork. Air is disturbed and excited by people and trains passing through the station. The Piston Effect... is [an] air movement type being investigated to bring the station to life. The arrival and departure of the trains and the passengers and staff all create this flux, creating a generative and random choreography. This will be used as the score or algorithm to control the digital canvas, creating a unique and ever changing real time four dimensional artwork.”

An elevator provides access between the concourse and the platform, photo, Jack Landau

Heading downstairs toward the platform, with elements of "Piston Effect" in the background, photo, Jack Landau

Descending further into the station, we learned that an elevator, four escalators, and stairs serve the subway platform. Two enclosed emergency exit stairs are also available at each platform end. Ceilings are exposed concrete beams with a suspended metal ceiling system and acoustic absorbing material above. Trainway walls are exposed architectural concrete.

A view up the escalator toward the concourse from the platform level, photo, Jack Landau

At platform level, photo, Jack Landau

Rendering of the platform, image, TTC

Here's how the station currently looks on video:

We walked 600 metres south through the tunnel to view an emergency exit. As we walked, Kervin showed us the yellow beacons between the rails for the automatic train control system. The beacons signal transit control to help the control team learn the position of every train that travels along the line and, eventually, let the TTC offer more frequent service along all of Line 1 by 2019.

Looking south along the tunnel toward Finch West Station, photo, Jack Landau

Yellow boxes between the rails are the beacons that help relay train information to transit control, photo, Jack Landau

A future emergency exit from the tunnel, photo, Jack Landau

Boyce showed us the thick cabling that will carry WiFi service into the tunnels of the extension when it opens. Kervin said that the TTC's wireless provider BAI Canada was able to co-ordinate its installation with construction of the line. (The supplier bears the entire cost of this work, with no charge to the TTC.) As we were about to leave the platform level, a tractor pulling two large spools of this cabling appeared at track level as two worker proceeded southward to continue installing it.

The upper cable supports WiFi service in the tunnels, photo, Jack Landau

WiFi cabling arrived on these giant spools, photo, Jack Landau

We finished our tour—and our geometry lesson—on the ninth floor of the Kaneff Reseach Tower, to get an aerial view of the construction site. GO and TTC buses continue to dominate the view presently, but they won't do that for long. Although some buses will continue to operate through the campus, for the most part they'll serve terminals at other stations along the line. When the new subway opens, the university will restore the Common to its intended function as a space for students, faculty, staff and visitors to enjoy, but without the effects of bus noise and fumes disturbing the space.

View of the station from the ninth floor of the Kaneff Research building, photo, Jack Landau

We will keep you up-to-date as the project moves nearer to opening day. You can learn more information in the dataBase file, which we've linked below. Want to share your thoughts on this proposal? Leave a comment in the space on this page, or join in the ongoing conversation in the associated Forum thread.

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