Shigeru Ban Toronto

Toronto is getting a stunning building made of wood

George Brown College is set to bring the first-ever "institutional tall wood building" to Toronto as part of its environmentally-friendly waterfront campus downtown.

Called The Arbour, this structure will be the first and largest of its kind in Ontario at 12-storeys tall with a 16,250 square-metre footprint. It was also be the site of Canada's first Tall Wood Research Institute and, hopefully, a leader in green and sustainable construction.

What we won't know until next week is what this futuristic, mass timber building will look like.

Four different architectural firms will be showcasing their design concepts at an open event on March 27 at 51 Dockside Drive. Each firm will have 20 minutes to present their ideas to a "distinguished jury," as well as members of the public, using models, panels and poster presentations.

Moriyama & Teshima Architects and Acton Ostry Architects design concept for The Arbour. (Photos courtesy of George Brown College.)

The first of these finalists is the team of Moriyama & Teshima Architects and Acton Ostry Architects, from Toronto and Vancouver respectively.

"Our design instills generous spaces for wellbeing and sustainability into The Arbour, whose very name evokes green growth and shelter. We seek to instill 'Breathing Room(s)' throughout the design," reads part of the project's vision statement.

"Our vision is rooted in confronting, and contributing to conquering, the consequences of climate change for current and future generations."

tall wood building Toronto

Moriyama & Teshima Architects and Acton Ostry Architects design concept for The Arbour. (Photos courtesy of George Brown College.)

Next up are Patkau Architects and MJMA, another Vancouver-Toronto pair who (like all of the finalists) worked with a comprehensive team of structural, climate, electrical, transportation and civil engineers, among other experts, to create their concept.

Patkau wood concept

Patkau Architects and MJMA design concept for The Arbour. (Photos courtesy of George Brown College.)

"The most important connections in a network arise between people," reads their vision statement. "The Arbour supports these connections by integrating four basic subsystems: the Spatial System, Information System, Energy System, and Structural System."

"Experienced simply as comfort, each system fits together in a mutually supporting complex of performative relationships that are both visibly evident and accessible as raw data."

Toronto tall wood

Patkau Architects and MJMA design concept for The Arbour. (Photos courtesy of George Brown College.)

The third design concept comes from Montreal's Provencher Roy and Toronto's Turner Fleischer.

Provencher Roy building

Provencher Roy + Turner Fleischer design concept for The Arbour. (Photos courtesy of George Brown College.)

"As an educational institution, the Arbour's mandate requests evolutionary transformation with the changing realities," writes this team.

"Casting away traditional approaches, the Arbour turns opacity into capacity. Its building envelope responds to the various contextual conditions in both human and performance frameworks."

George Brown campus

Provencher Roy + Turner Fleischer design concept for The Arbour. (Photos courtesy of George Brown College.)

Last but not least, we have the highly-acclaimed Tokyo-based architecture firm Shigeru Ban Architects (run by Pritzker Prize laureate Shigeru Ban) in partnership with Toronto's Brook McIlroy Inc.

George Brown wood building

Shigeru Ban Architects & Brook McIlroy Inc. design concept for The Arbour. (Photos courtesy of George Brown College.)

"Shigeru Ban Architects' depth of experience working in timber is unparalleled globally as well as within Canada," reads the team's vision document.

"The people-centric design supports a healthy educational environment and student success," it continues, "reflecting Shigeru Ban's belief that '...what determines the permanence of a building is the simple question of whether or not the structure is supported and loved by the people.'"

George Brown wood building

Shigeru Ban Architects & Brook McIlroy Inc. design concept for The Arbour. (Photos courtesy of George Brown College.)

If you have a very strong opinion about any of these designs, I suggest you hit up the presentation event on March 27 at George Brown's Waterfront Campus.

The winning selection will be chosen, after the jury has had time to deliberate, on March 28.

Lead photo by

George Brown College


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