Project Area: 72,000 square metres (775,000 square feet)
Client: Infrastructure Ontario and Ellis Don Corporation
Design: Renzo Piano Building Workshop, architects in collaboration with NORR Ltd. (Toronto)
Design Team: A. Belvedere (partner in charge)
Located in downtown Toronto, the New Toronto Courthouse will be Renzo Piano Building Workshop’s (RPBW) first Canadian Project. Sitting on 10 Armoury Street, between Centre Avenue and Chestnut Street, it lies in the vicinity of Nathan Phillips Square and Toronto City Hall.
The civic precinct has been undergoing redevelopment, with modern buildings emerging from the dense fabric of the city. The project is expected to be completed in the spring of 2022. The courthouse aims to combine six courts in obscure locations of the province.
The project aims to showcase the multicultural neighborhood by the creation of expansive public spaces. The plaza with its tall columns creates openness and embraces the public into the building. Reinventing the arcaded entrance porticos of classical buildings, like the Acropolis of Athens, the modern Courthouse will have an all-inclusive streetscape. This reassures the citizens that justice will take place in a barrier-free environment.
The building spills onto the street corner, blending the professional and pedestrian environment. Although the entrance porch will be see-through, security measures will be taken for the safety of the judges, lawyers, and other users of the courtrooms. The site underwent archaeological excavation by Infrastructure Ontario in 2018.
The rich tapestry of the neighborhood will be showcased in the public learning center on the first four floors of the building. Artifacts with great cultural significance will be displayed in the lower levels of the structure. It will depict the history of the neighborhood and the milestones of the Canadian judicial system. The 20-meter tall atrium is encased in glass, with bold projections emphasizing the strength of the judicial system.
The upper block comprising the courtrooms is larger than the lower floors. This creates a four storeys high porch shielded from the elements. A collection of six Ontario Criminal Courts of Justice will sit within the seventeen storeys tall building. The 63 courtrooms are of various proportions and are designed to facilitate smooth and secure court proceedings. The fourth-floor slab sits on 20-meter high twin columns and extends to form a canopy.
The frontage shows a glass curtain wall with spider fittings, spanning four-storey high. The glass façade showcases modernism with an emphasis on transparency. The cube overhead floats on stilts and houses the main functions of the courthouse. Further illumination is provided with the help of a rebate in the massive cuboid. The translucent nature of the cube provides a semblance of privacy within the glass block. The external glass skin is broken by a grey back panel. The embossed metal panel creates an illusion of windows and opaque walls for all the facades. This three-dimensional glass wall creates a reflective, ethereal look. The multiple layers facilitate the play of light and shadow for the users as well as passers-by. The reflective glass in turn relieves the dense cuboidal mass. The south façade mimics the East portico of Osgoode hall.
The renders for the internal spaces show a minimalist, modern style. The atrium will be colorful and textured to portray the rich cultural heritage of the site. A pop of bright yellow on the walls will create a sunny and happy atmosphere. The golden tinge will illuminate the entrance with a warm, welcoming feeling. Featuring a staircase and an escalator, the atrium will act as the connection between the various levels of the visitors’ center. The sleek staircase rests on white steel girders. It appears see-through due to the absence of risers and thin metal treads. The glass railings provide a minimalist look.
On the other hand, the courtroom render depicts a subdued scheme. Subtle tones are used to avoid distractions. The well-lit room with white accents conveys clarity of thought. The lighting scheme comprises backlit ceiling panels and spotlights. The presence of spotlights suspended on thin black wires gives it a gallery-like appearance. The walls are fitted with rectangular wooden panels which divide the volume into smaller sections.
The building envelope reduces solar emissions and glare with the help of double-layered glazing. The metal pans situated on the inner side, add an extra layer of protection, against the harsh sunlight. The top levels of the building comprise the judge’s chambers and a landscaped courtyard. This encourages ventilation and entry of natural light into the judicial rooms.
The roof is covered with photovoltaic cells, providing a renewable energy source. The building aims to receive the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Silver certification.