A contemporary, 6-storey building with a stacked program — classrooms, musical spaces, gymnasium, and rooftop playground — is poised to become the new home for St Michael’s Choir School, an all-boys integrated elementary and secondary school in Downtown Toronto. Last month, the Toronto Catholic District School Board and Archdiocese of Toronto submitted a proposal to City planners to replace the school’s existing facilities at 56-66 Bond Street and consolidate its overall program into a new building on the site. While renewing with modernized learning spaces, the design also celebrates the heritage elements, and retains the Gothic Revivalist-style façade.
The 0.5-acre site is located on the west side of Bond Street, just north of the intersection with Shuter Street, and directly opposite St Michael’s Cathedral Basilica. It is bounded by St Michael’s Hospital Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute to the south, Victoria Street Lane to the west, and a 5-storey office building to the north.
The notable 2½-storey 66 Bond Street building (by Architect James Haffa, built 1950) was designed in a gothic revival, ‘collegiate’ style, and finished in red brick with grey Indiana limestone detailing. Its main (east) façade is organized around a central clock tower, with vertical brick buttresses, capped by carved stone gables articulating a series of bays on either side. While neither of the existing buildings are designated or listed on the Register of Heritage Properties, the façade and clock tower will be conserved and incorporated into the new design.
KPMB +VG Architects in Joint Venture, the same team behind the 2010-2020 rehabilitation of St Michael’s Cathedral Basilica across the street, have skillfully consolidated the school’s facilities —currently dispersed over the properties on this site of 56 and 66 Bond Street, and on the east side of Bond at 67 and 69 — into a single six-storey, 7,230m² building which would be the new home for the 300-pupil boys’ school and choral institute of music for grades 3 to 12. The building is organized as a “vertically stacked campus of accommodation.” The elementary school program is located on level 5 for proximity to the rooftop playground on level 6. High school classrooms are located on level 4, and music classrooms, practice, and rehearsal spaces are located on level 3. The public and social spaces, including cafeteria and auditorium are located on level 2.
The ground floor comprises the gymnasium, administration areas, and library and resource centre. The principal entrance is situated at the south of the site and is aligned with the main axis of the cathedral, while the existing heritage doors at the base of the tower is adapted for use as an alternative entrance and emergency exit.
The main exterior wall finish is a buff-coloured brick, similar to that of the cathedral. The palette is currently being selected to complement the adjacent buildings, and the heritage context. The building’s upper levels are stepped back from the heritage facade, preserving the legibility and integrity of the existing building, and maintaining the historic scale on Bond Street.
As described in the Heritage Impact Assessment, “Physical and cultural heritage associations of the site and its surroundings have been central to the conceptual design and organization of the new building. Visual and spatial connections are created to reinforce the associative links between the school and St Michael’s Cathedral Basilica on the other side of the street, and throughout the new building, views of the Cathedral are framed.”
The replacement school is a much-needed upgrade of the existing facilities and addresses the major issue of the current accommodation being split between four separate buildings, located on either side of the street. “By maintaining this continuity of use, conserving the most valuable elements of the existing structure and incorporating them into the new building, the proposed development will promote and enhance the heritage value of the site as it relates to the Cathedral, and within the wider context of Bond Street.”
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