U of T’s ‘Landscape of Landmark Quality’ Project Reshaping Outdoor Spaces

The University of Toronto’s historic St George campus is getting a long-awaited makeover of its public realm through its Landscape of Landmark Quality project. Designed by KPMB Architects, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA), and Urban Strategies, the project’s goal is to create a more pedestrian and cyclist-friendly environment through the refreshing of four of the campus’ most important outdoor spaces: King’s College Circle, Hart House Circle, Sir Daniel Wilson Quad, and the Back Campus Fields. 

University of Toronto, Landscape of Landmark Quality, KPMB, MVVA, Urban StrategiesRendering of U of T’s Landscape of Landmark Quality project, image via kpmb.com

20 acres of space is being revitalized through the introduction of new pathways and plantings, while vehicular access is being reduced and all at-grade parking in the area will be relocated into an underground garage. A network of sweeping, interconnected pedestrian and cycle paths that will crisscross King’s College Circle plus a new column of oak trees lining Tower Road are two of the signature pieces of the plan, while particular landmarks like Convocation Hall are getting special attention. The latter is to be framed by a landscaped central plaza, with pavement removed and replaced with granite pavers and seating that better complements the building’s Edwardian Baroque Revival style architecture. 

University of Toronto, Landscape of Landmark Quality, KPMB, MVVA, Urban StrategiesAsphalt removed from King’s College Circle, image by Forum contributor Northern Light

Along Tower Road to the north, the approach to the landmark Soldiers’ Tower—until recently a road with surface parking abutting the Back Campus Fields—has been ripped up for new paths and the planting of the row of oak trees. They will grow where the surface parking was, and create a green buffer between the Back Campus Fields to the west and Wycliffe College and Hart House to the east.

University of Toronto, Landscape of Landmark Quality, KPMB, MVVA, Urban StrategiesLooking south along Tower Road, image by Forum contributor Northern Light

Below King’s College Circle, a garage will serve the campus with 60 electric vehicle parking spaces and secure storage capacity for more than 300 bikes. The removal of vehicular traffic and surface parking on the campus is a key in realizing the goal of creating a more pedestrian-focused public realm with improved safety and accessibility. 

The project is also providing the opportunity to reduce the campus’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by a wide margin through the installation of a large geothermal system beneath the King’s College Circle garage. This green heating and cooling feature for surrounding buildings is expected to reduce GHG emissions equivalent to taking 3,000 cars off the road per year, and serves as part of U of T’s commitment to cut GHG emissions by 37% from 1990 levels by 2030. Recent images show drilling rigs onsite alongside bundles of steel tubes that will be used in the collection and transfer of geothermal energy.

University of Toronto, Landscape of Landmark Quality, KPMB, MVVA, Urban StrategiesGeothermal drilling for U of T’s Landscape of Landmark Quality project, image by Forum contributor Northern Light

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