ERA Architects

University of Toronto: Landscape of Landmark Quality

The University of Toronto’s King’s College Circle is an iconic ceremonial landscape, an important hub of student life, and a beloved public space. Part of the landscape plan produced by William Mundie and William Storm in conjunction with the designs for University College (1856-1859), King’s College Circle began as a picturesque landscape setting for the pavilion-style building.  Significant new construction shaped King’s College Circle through the 20th century, as additional colleges and facilities were built. Beaux-Arts planning principles led to the extension of King’s college Road and axial view of University College in the 1920’s. Later, campus expansion introduced several modern buildings, including the late-modern Medical Sciences complex, constructed at the Circle’s southeast edge in 1969.

ERA Architects was retained by KPMB Architects to provide heritage consulting services and assess the impact of proposed alterations related to the University of Toronto Landmark project. The Landmark Project proposes a coordinated series of landscape upgrades for the St. George Campus, including removal of vehicular access within Kings College Circle, to reclaim the campus core for pedestrians and cyclists. ERA’s heritage impact assessment addresses these upgrades and the related insertion of below-grade parking under the King’s College Circle lawn.

ERA’s heritage impact assessment includes complex heritage policy review, integrating the University’s current secondary plan update process. Through analysis of the site’s historic context, patterns of use, circulation, and spatial patterns, ERA’s assessment of the Landmark Project highlights the design strategy as a sensitive, contemporary response to the area’s role as a ceremonial landscape, which predates the automobile. It concludes that impacts are mitigated through the project’s contextually responsive design and landscape upgrades that are legible as a contemporary layer.