ryerson student learning

The best and worst university buildings in Toronto

University buildings in Toronto run the gamut from internationally recognized structures to infuriatingly confusing labyrinths. Yet, all of them hold dear memories of stressful all-nighters and impossibly long lectures. And, despite our complaints, even our most derided campuses are turning the corner towards sunnier architectural days.

Here are my picks for the best and worst university buildings in Toronto.


Student Learning Centre (Ryerson)

The recently opened Student Learning Centre (SLC) puts Ryerson right on Yonge Street and provides the campus with much needed study space. The eight-floor building features an amphitheatre, a green roof and an even an indoor beach (check out the sixth floor if you have a OneCard). The New York Times also spotlighted it earlier this year.

university buildings toronto

OCAD's Sharp Centre for Design is one of Toronto's iconic structures. Photo by Scott Norsworthy.

The Sharp Centre for Design (OCAD)

While some say it looks like a high school on the inside, the exterior of this award-winning OCAD building is visually stunning. Located on McCaul Street, it's instantly recognizable for its pencil crayon stilts and tabletop design.

university buildings toroto

The Bergeron Centre is a central piece of York's architectural renaissance. Photo via YAS Architects.

Bergeron Centre (York)

This recent addition to York University might just signal a renaissance for its Keele campus. Inspired by natural objects, such as clouds and rocks, the minimalist, open-concept building was designed by ZAS Architects and Interiors. It's now the school of engineering's new home.

university buildings toronto

You won't find many athletics centres better equipped than the Pan Am Sports Centre. Photo via the City of Toronto.

Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre (U of T)

Built for the Pan Am/Parapan Games, this 312,000 square foot facility is jointly owned by the City of Toronto and U of T. It features two 10-lane, 50-metre pools, a climbing wall, gym and conditioning centre, a field house and a track. It's safe to say that behind the Canary District, this is one of the best legacy projects from the 2015 Games.

university buildings toronto

Being a U of T student has its perks. Case in point: the Goldring Centre. Photo by Marcus Mitanis.

Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport (U of T)

With a 2,000-seat field house suitable for court sports such as basketball and volleyball, this new athletic centre is open to the U of T community and the public alike. It features a gym and fitness studios along with a sports medicine clinic and research labs.

university buildings toronto

Academic buildings don't get much nicer than the Terrence Donnelly Centre. Photo via U of T.

Terrence Donnelly Centre (U of T)

This glass tower stands in stark contrast to many of the other buildings that dot the University of Toronto's St. George campus, but in a good way. Along with its impressive physique, the Donnelly Centre is an open-concept space that's responsible for world-class research in the STEM fields.

university buildings toronto

The Schulich School of Business ushered in a new era of architecture at York. Photo via York University.

Schulich School of Business (York)

In 2003, Hariri Pontari Architects designed a brand new home for York University's prestigious business school and won the Governor General's Award for architecture in the process. The 340,000 square foot building houses Schulich's many programs and also features a hotel for "select clientele and guests."


university buildings toronto

If you've ever wanted to enter a Kafka story, just head to Kerr Hall. Photo via the Wikimedia Commons.

Kerr Hall (Ryerson)

Even seasoned Ryerson students get lost in Kerr Hall because the massive building is a veritable maze. Its classrooms are either too cold or too hot and the lineup at the second floor Tim Hortons is always way too long.

university buildings toronto

The Ross Building is a Brutalist throwback that doesn't get much love. Photo by Lori Whelan.

Ross Building (York)

This behemoth of a building at York University is also extremely difficult to navigate, especially for first year students. Ross is stunning example of the Brutalist architecture that once dominated the Keele campus. It's so ugly that Vari Hall was built at least partially to cover it up.

university buildings toronto

The 1970s are alive and well at the Ryerson Library. Photo by Brian Cameron.

Ryerson Library/Podium Building (POD) (Ryerson)

Don't even bother trying to take an elevator at the Ryerson Library; they're always over-crowded. While the Librarians are always helpful, the building is usually over-heated and you're pretty much guaranteed to bump into someone on the awkward zig-zagging staircases. That said, POD now has The Hub cafeteria, which is awesome.

Lead photo by

Steve Chui. With files from Amy Grief.

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