Media Releases

Ep. 3 Transforming 1 Spadina with Richard Sommer

April 27, 2015

Richard Som­mer shares his vision for 1 Spad­i­na — future home of the Daniels Fac­ul­ty of Archi­tec­ture, Land­scape & Design — as a trans­for­ma­tive space, step­ping in to fos­ter urban inno­va­tions where munic­i­pal gov­ern­ments can­not.


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The Cities Pod­cast Ep 3 Trans­form­ing 1 Spad­i­na with Richard Som­mer


This is The Cities Pod­cast, I’m Bri­an­na Gold­berg.


Col­lege Street at Spad­i­na has been a bit of a mess late­ly.


For the past three weeks this inter­sec­tion has been com­plete­ly closed down by the TTC and City of Toron­to.


They’ve been replac­ing old street­car tracks and gen­er­al­ly mak­ing things new­er and stur­dier.


But these changes are just a blip com­pared to a much longer-term con­struc­tion project a few steps north.


1 Spad­i­na Cres­cent is the build­ing at the cen­tre of Spad­i­na Cir­cle – a huge neo-Goth­ic manor-like struc­ture with tur­rets and peaked win­dows. And it’s in the mid­dle of an ambi­tious rein­ven­tion.


Soon this build­ing will be an arrest­ing mashup of old and new – the orig­i­nal bones of it ampli­fied by sleek cor­ners and soar­ing glass.


It’s set to become the new home for U of T’s Daniels Fac­ul­ty of Archi­tec­ture, Land­scape and Design – which cel­e­brates its 125th anniver­sary this year. Lat­er in this series we’ll explore a few of the spaces in Toron­to where its grad­u­ates have made their mark.


But today I want­ed to check in with the faculty’s dean, Richard Som­mer, and ask for a sneak peek into the future of 1 Spad­i­na.


I spoke with him at the faculty’s cur­rent office, fur­ther east on Col­lege Street. He start­ed off by shar­ing one of his favourite rea­sons for mov­ing to Spad­i­na Cir­cle…




One of the excit­ing things about that is the street­car goes around it and we hope to make some traf­fic improve­ments so that peo­ple will be able to come to the school, right up to the front, get­ting off on the new Spad­i­na cars…




Fresh­ly designed street­cars swirling around a fresh­ly designed archi­tec­ture school… it’s an urbanist’s dream.


But the most dra­mat­ic rein­ven­tions at this future 1 Spad­i­na will be hap­pen­ing inside its walls.


Som­mer says he hopes they may hold a unique poten­tial to change the way Toron­to and oth­er glob­al cities look, act and feel.




Well, actu­al­ly we’re look­ing at devel­op­ing a kind of soft­ware that looks at how you mod­el cities accord­ing to a num­ber of com­plex phe­nom­e­na. Lay­ers, if you well, of the three-dimen­sion­al vol­umes of cities. The way in which you can inte­grate data on envi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions, every­thing from traf­fic to weath­er to real-estate val­ues, the ecol­o­gy, the built mor­phol­o­gy, the pat­terns of move­ment, light, air, all of these con­di­tions – a tool if you will to look at the com­plex way in which large parts of the city can be bet­ter mod­eled and orga­nized by design.


One of the things we have in minds is to actu­al­ly build at the new school what I call a ‘mod­el cities lab­o­ra­to­ry’ and a ‘mod­el cities the­atre.’ So that would be almost like a kitchen and a din­ing room. The kitchen is the lab where we’re going to cook up alter­nate visions for both Toron­to and oth­er cities, alter­nate ways of think­ing of the future of devel­op­ment in the city, made in the lab. And then the the­atre is a kind of black-box space where through dig­i­tal and phys­i­cal mod­els we actu­al­ly engage var­i­ous mem­bers of the com­mu­ni­ty, gov­ern­ment, pri­vate indus­try, in dis­cus­sions and debates around those alter­nate visions like you would invite peo­ple to try out new kinds of cui­sine in the din­ing room. So through this glob­al cities data project we’re try­ing to devel­op the met­rics and the data so we can under­stand in a com­plex way what’s hap­pen­ing in cities, then we’re devel­op­ing these visu­al­iza­tion tech­niques to mod­el alter­nate forms of cities so that as archi­tects and urban design­ers and land­scape archi­tects, land­scape archi­tects, we can work with oth­er col­leagues with deep­er exper­tise in, let’s say, traf­fic mod­el­ing or cities and health or in oth­er areas of plan­ning to actu­al­ly have this con­ver­sa­tion. So we think this uni­ver­si­ty or uni­ver­si­ties are unique now in being able to spon­sor these kinds of con­ver­sa­tions because elec­tions and politi­cians and the cycles the gov­ern­ment exists on do not allow for the kinds of invest­ments in time and in research that are going to dri­ve a for­ward-look­ing way of think­ing about the city.




That was Richard Som­mer, dean of the Daniels Fac­ul­ty of Archi­tec­ture, Land­scape and Design.


Near the end you may have heard him men­tion the glob­al cities data project… that was the top­ic of our pre­vi­ous episode called The Pow­er of Num­bers with Patri­cia McCar­ney.


She and her team at U of T’s Glob­al Cities Insti­tute and its spin-off, called the World Coun­cil on City Data, are gath­er­ing inter­na­tion­al­ly stan­dard­ized data on cities for the first time ever. Check that out in our back episodes.


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Thanks to The Fes­tive Spe­cials for the music you heard in this episode.


The Cities Pod­cast is pro­duced by me, Bri­an­na Gold­berg, with help from U of T News edi­tor, Jen­nifer Lan­thi­er.


Thanks for lis­ten­ing.