Jones and Kirkland Architects
The site was on the edge of a large parking lot serving a regional shopping centre, which in turn was positioned in a super-block ringed by 12-storey office towers. The brief called for 37,820 square metres of detailed accommodation, including a parking garage for 1,000 cars. A set of common-sense urban design guidelines was included, the most particular of which was reference to the Toronto tradition of public buildings facing south to Lake Ontario. The city hall is composed on a plinth 1.5 metres above the ground, thereby distinguishing it from the otherwise featureless and flat surrounding area.
The civic square is formed by the south-facing façade and is defined on its east and west sides by open arcades. The principal façade, 10 metres deep, is scaled to control a symmetrical and civic foreground with its gardens, amphitheatre and fountains. More informally, elements are grouped behind – the cylindrical council chamber, the pyramid of the great hall, the departmental office tower and the clock tower. To the east the offices of the mayor and the elected officials are grouped around the council chamber and to the west are the offices of the city hall staff and their departments.
Central to the composition is the great hall. The principal organisation of the interior is bi-axial. The main entrances are arranged in a north-south direction and in the other direction either side of the great hall are the council chamber and great stair. These three public interiors establish the building’s essential armature – a valley in section, anthropocentric in plan. The Great Hall acts as a vestibule to the city. From here all public facilities find access. When we designed the project we entitled it ‘A Building for Two Seasons’ in response to the extremes of the Canadian climate. The external square facing south is a place for events in the summer, whereas the Great Hall acts as a covered piazzetta in the winter.
The great stair relates the lower three floors of the building to the ground. Within these floors are the departments most visited by the public and, not unlike the great hall, the staircase acts as a referential space giving identity to the occupants of the interior spaces. All three public voids allow daylight to penetrate and invigorate the otherwise deep floor plate.