York University was established in 1959, with the first classes held in Falconer Hall at the University of Toronto. In 1962, after the province gave the university approximately 600 acres of land at the northern edge of the city, UPACE (University Planners, Architects and Consulting Engineers) was formed and commissioned to prepare a master plan for the new institution.
The UPACE team was led by three architects from three prominent Canadian firms: John H. Bonnick of Gordon S. Adamson & Associates; William N. Greer of Shore & Moffat and Partners, and John C. Parkin of the office of John B. Parkin Associates, Architects and Engineers. These three men prepared the master plan for the new campus, with Hideo Sasaki of the Department of Landscape Architecture at Harvard University acting as a consultant.
UPACE also prepared a set of design guidelines that would direct future development, and ensure a consistent, coherent campus. These directives are best expressed in some of the numerous buildings designed by UPACE on the campus, such as Farquarson Life Sciences, Scott Library, Tait McKenzie Physical Education, Stedman Lecture Halls/Lecture Hall One, Behavioural Sciences, Petrie Sciences, the Ross Building, Vanier and Winters Colleges, as well as McLaughlin College – for which they were finalists for the 1970 Massey Medal.
York University has recognized its heritage as a modernist institution, and all of the buildings designed under the direction of the initial master plan have been listed on the Toronto Inventory of Heritage Properties.