Project rationale

Rendering of Centre for Experiential Learning at 115 McCaul St. Bortolotto Architects.

Rendering of Centre for Experiential Learning at 115 McCaul St. Bortolotto Architects.

Alignment with the Government of Ontario’s innovative approaches to talent, skills and training

OCAD University’s Creative City Campus project maximizes space opportunities within the university’s existing footprint and boldly re-imagines the use of space to expand studio-based and experiential learning, upgrade learning-and-teaching technology, intensify research capacity and nurture innovation-minded thinkers and makers. The project aligns fully with the Government of Ontario’s commitment to investing in people, building modern infrastructure and supporting a dynamic and innovative business climate.

Alignment with OCAD University’s SMA and strategic plans

OCAD University’s commitment in its SMA (for 2014 to 2017) is to maintain and strengthen precisely what distinguishes it as a world-class art, design and new media teaching, learning, professional practice and research institution. The following priorities are identified in the institution’s strategic plan, Advancing Excellence at OCAD University for the Age of Imagination, 2012-2017, as well as its five-year strategic enrolment plan:

  • Priority No.1: An enriched and relevant student experience. Building on its powerful history of studio-based learning, OCAD University will continue to extend the studio into the community, workplace, laboratory and online worlds. It will also bring the world into its studios, laboratories and classrooms to enrich learners’ experiential journey and respond to today’s diverse and mobile students – equipping them with what they need to make creative contributions to Ontario’s future.
  • Priority No.2: Smart and strategic growth. Responding to the growing need for creative and innovative talent, OCAD University will undertake focused growth through 2018/2019 in order to build its position in niche-program delivery and research-creation, diversifying and internationalizing undergraduate, graduate and continuing studies enrolment and hiring faculty to build Ontario’s economic, social and cultural prosperity.
  • Priority No.3: Leadership in city- and community-building. OCAD University will support jobs, innovation and economic development through its contribution of design thinking, strategic foresight and exceptional skills in art, design, digital media and research creation. As such, it will act as a creative local and global partner in infrastructure development and creative-industries initiatives and, along with other institutions and diverse communities, expand public and private partnerships to magnify capability and impact (through, for example, OCAD University’s Imagination Catalyst and its related incubation capacity).

Niche programming, a well-equipped contemporary studio environment and a smart and sustainable growth plan will continue to ensure that OCAD University — together with the cultural precinct it occupies in downtown Toronto — shines as a driver of the creative economy for Ontario, Canada and the world. As such, the projects that comprise the Creative City Campus precisely align with the university’s SMA and strategic plans.

Alignment with campus renewal policy and university master plan

The Creative City Campus project advances the core principles guiding the OCAD University capital strategy, including developing the campus corridor along McCaul and Duncan streets, making the best use of existing space, enhancing the streetscape by increasing transparency of use, prioritizing sustainability and employing integrated planning processes. Each of the project’s elements — added volumes, reconsidered space configurations and retrofits to the fabrication studios, new outdoor and indoor programming space for the Indigenous Visual Cultures program, an expanded library footprint, tiered classrooms, updates to the historic George Reid House and a large, energy-saving glass frontage at 150 McCaul St. — expresses one or more of the aforementioned principles. Together, they paint a comprehensive and exciting picture of OCAD University’s future.

Further, OCAD University has a tremendous and dire need for space and a growing deferred maintenance backlog (approximately $20 million). According to a recent Council of Ontario Universities report, OCAD University has only 44.3 per cent — less than half the space it requires — to serve its students properly. This is the lowest amount of all Ontario universities and substantially below the Ontario average of 78.8 percent.

Practically speaking, this means that the university has very high utilization rates for classrooms, studios and fabrication spaces; a shortage of student gathering spaces; and a need for increased and modernized library space. In fact, OCAD University students, through the NSSE and OCAD University focus groups, have indicated that the lack of space undermines their student and satisfaction as well as has a negative impact on their ability to complete their work and graduate in a timely manner.

Benefits to local economy and linkages with local industries and the community

The transformation of McCaul Street (between Dundas and Queen streets) into Toronto’s Creative City Campus — strategically located at the gateway to OCAD University and the crossroads of Toronto’s financial and artistic districts — will invite students, faculty and the public-at-large to engage with art, design and each other. A forum where students and faculty from all disciplines intersect, it will be a creative hub for interdisciplinary studies, community outreach and knowledge creation/experimentation. Each of its related initiatives will greatly enhance the university’s cultural and economic impact.