ERA Architects

New Approaches to Heritage Documentation

UC 4

University College is the founding college at the University of Toronto and the oldest building on the St. George campus. Built in the Romanesque-Revival style by Cumberland & Storm, when opened in 1859 it was among the most important buildings in the country. In 1968 this status was further confirmed with the building’s designation by the national historic sites and monuments board.

Throughout the building’s history there have been several crucial moments of transition. The first was the result of a fire that engulfed most of the southeast corner of the building in 1890, destroying much of the interior, including the original library. An extensive restoration by David B. Dick was completed in 1892, which provided much of the interior fabric still on view today. In 1964 a Neo-Norman yellow brick addition, designed by Mathers & Haldenby was also completed. The addition enclosed the quadrangle and reintroduced the library program within the new building. Finally the 1970’s saw extensive restoration and modernization of services led by Eric Arthur and Wilson Newton Roberts Architects.

ERA Architects are participating in a joint venture with Kohn Shnier Architects (KSA) to embark on a transformative new phase in University College’s evolution. Architectural design work will include key accessibility upgrades, which will help to bring the building in line with University College’s ethos of openness and diversity. The building will also restore the library and study spaces to the prominent East and West Halls.

The project will require the thoughtful insertion of new fabric within the formidable existing context. To aid in this work ERA and KSA are implementing the use of photogrammetry as a central tool for the revitalization project. The method combines aspects of digital photography and traditional survey methods to generate thousands of 3D pixel points. Similar to laser scanning, these measurements exist as discrete sites in space, creating a digital ‘point cloud’ documentation of the space. The point cloud can be cut and flattened to generate highly accurate traditional architectural drawings, as well as 3D models. Furthermore this data will become an important artefact, documenting significant features of the building, as they exist at this particular moment of transition. While photogrammetric methods date back to the origin of photography, ERA is pioneering its use as a tool at the intersection between thoughtful heritage conservation and prospective contemporary design.