SHARP CENTRE FOR DESIGN
OCAD University's $42.5 million campus redevelopment, completed and opened in September 2004, features the Sharp Centre for Design, designed by acclaimed British Architect Will Alsop, of Alsop Architects, in a joint venture with Toronto-based Robbie/Young + Wright Architects Inc..
The Sharp Centre for Design, named after the lead benefactors Rosalie and Isadore Sharp, is a unique "table top" structure which has quickly become one of the most exciting architectural landmarks in Toronto. The Centre houses OCAD U's Faculty of Design programs, and allows for expanded facilities for the Faculties of Art and Liberal Studies.
The remarkable 'table top' superstructure, that takes the form of a parallelepiped (9m high, 31m wide and 84m long), with striking black and white pixellated skin, stands 26 metres above the ground on 12 multi-coloured legs. The structure provides two storeys of studio and teaching space and is connected to the existing facility below by an elevator and stair core that forms the central focus of the newly created entrance hall uniting the two halves of the existing university buildings at all levels.
The Sharp Centre for Design is innovative in that it is situated above the older main campus building, giving OCAD U outdoor park space and reconnecting Grange Park with the McCaul Street neighbourhood. Aside from being suspended in the sky, it is actually a very conventional structure (essentially a box), with efficient use of space for classrooms, studios, offices, and student workspace.
OCAD U's Campus Expansion Project
- The table top structure is held up primarily by the central core. It was built like half of a suspension bridge. The core is equivalent to the tower at one end of the bridge, and the legs are equivalent to the suspension cables.
- The legs, which are longer than the building height, are approximately 100' (10 storeys) high. They are hollow and made of steel approx 1" thick. Each leg weighs 18,000 pounds.
- The legs were made in Pennsylvania and were originally meant to be natural gas pipeline. They were painted with many coats of special "intumescent" paint, which is extremely expensive but necessary to protect structural steel in case of fire. Under high heat, the paint swells up to provide a protective cushion around the structure. Intumescent paint has been used on all exposed structural steel in the Sharp Centre for Design.
- The core sits on 12 foundation "caissons" made of concrete with steel reinforcing, each of which is five feet in diameter and extends 40 to 60 feet into the earth, plus five feet into the bedrock.
- Each of the six pairs of legs sits on five caissons, again made of concrete with steel reinforcing and extending into the bedrock. However, these caissons are each eight feet in diameter.
- The walls are nearly two feet thick because they contain the enormous steel structure.
- The red exit "tube" houses a secondary exit stairwell, to be used only for emergency exiting.
- To construct the Sharp Centre for Design, many of the workers had to complete difficult tasks at considerably great heights. PCL, the general contractor, is proud of the fact that no serious injuries were incurred throughout the construction project.
Sixteen large metal halide lights with blue bulbs illuminate the underside of the Sharp Centre for Design from dusk to midnight, making the table-top structure as much of a must see at night as it already is during the day.
Twelve of the lights are mounted on the roof of 100 McCaul Street, and four lights are located on the roof of 74 McCaul Street. They are extremely energy-efficient fixtures, with the total hydro consumption of only 72 cents per hour.
The lighting not only enhances the building — it is an intrinsic part of the original design plan envisioned by the architects in order to transform the character of the building between day and night. "Just like the pixilated cladding blurs the scale and perception of the building, the lighting changes the way people perceive the building," said Sharp Centre for Design architect Will Alsop. "We wanted the Sharp Centre to be one thing during the day and have a completely different look at night."
The Sharp Centre for Design was one of six buildings honoured with the first-ever Royal Institute of British Architects Worldwide Award on June 16, 2004. The unique, hovering table-top structure designed by British architect Will Alsop in a joint venture with Toronto-based Robbie/Young + Wright Architects Inc., was described as "courageous, bold and just a little insane" by the RIBA judges. The RIBA Worldwide Awards are for buildings outside the EU designed by a UK practice where at least one principal is an RIBA member. Unlike all other RIBA awards, these schemes are not visited but are judged by the RIBA Awards Group, with the expert advice of the Editor of The Architectural Review, Peter Davey.
The Sharp Centre for Design received the award of excellence in the 'Building in Context' category at the Toronto Architecture and Urban Design Awards on May 16, 2005. This award recognizes a structure that achieves urban design excellence through its relationship with the public realm. The design awards promote the importance of architecture that enhances the quality of life in Toronto.
The Sharp Centre for Design was deemed the most outstanding technical project overall in the 2005 Canadian Consulting Engineering Awards. Judges described the project as an extraordinary and bold expression of structural engineering, by Carruthers & Wallace Ltd. and MCW Consultants Ltd.
In 2006, Benjamin Moore Co. awarded SMC Alsop Inc. the Contract Exteriors Award for a body of work that includes OCAD U’s Sharp Centre for Design.
Access for the General Public
OCAD University does not offer public tours, although prospective students may take advantage of guided tours offered by Admissions & Recruitment. The general public are invited regularly to OCAD U for special exhibitions and events. In particularl, OCAD U's Annual Graduate Exhibition is held in early May — this event is a great time to visit OCAD University and to see the art and design thesis work of our talented undergraduate students. Visit our events calendar for more information.