Mecanoo together with local architects RDHA have completed the design for the LEED Platinum and CaGBC Zero Carbon targeted Lawson Centre for Sustainability (LCS) for Trinity College in the University of Toronto in Canada. The first new building for the College since 1979, the mixed-use facility builds upon Trinity’s strong sense of community, commitment to sustainability and re-frames the campus organization around a transformed public realm with a focus on enhancing overall campus wayfinding and accessibility. Part of this masterplan vision includes relocating campus logistics to LCS to make way for a future transformation of the existing delivery lane into a landscaped pedestrian axis.
The LCS is situated as a four-storey ‘T’ volume, creating a walkable building tailored to the urban scale of the campus. The shifting volumes frame each axis in a different manner, reflecting the multiple conditions on site and the various activities in the building. The existing fenced off North Field and parking lot have been transformed into a series of new informal semi-public courtyards planted with local indigenous species. An architectural language has emerged which both embraces a contemporary architectural expression while complimenting the surrounding Gothic and modernist styles of the historic campus. The windows shift in size and position in the residence floors to create a playful language in the masonry, accented by aluminum surrounds and operable panels which allow natural ventilation into the residence dorms. Limestone cladding frames the plinth of the building, while elongated soldier course details elegantly articulate the shifting volumes.
The student residence houses 222 units with 343 beds, combining a mixed arrangement of studios, single and double dorm typologies, of which 15% are barrier-free. The repeating layouts enable an efficient hybrid mass timber construction. Lounges are situated at the end of every residence wing to create smaller scale communal spaces where students can socialize or share home cooked meals. Open work and study spaces weave through the building to create a social and dynamic atmosphere where students can collaborate. These flexible breakout spaces facilitate a variety of activities between academic events, summer conferences, and evening use by students in residence. The new café on the ground floor opens into the courtyard to expand Trinity’s food services to students and the public, while the fourth-floor event pavilion enjoys views to the courtyard gardens and CN Tower.
The holistic approach to sustainability implements both hi- and low-tech solutions in the design with the objective to not only create a high-performance LEED Platinum and CaGBC Zero Carbon building, but to inspire students and the broader community to engage with their surroundings and become active participants through Trinity’s Integrated Sustainability Initiative. Food awareness is a core component of the LCS initiative, providing hands on education with a rooftop urban farm and community kitchen. A high performing envelope, geothermal, solar panels and rainwater collection are combined with maximizing natural daylight, views to nature and exposed timber interiors to ensure both user comfort as well as minimizing resource and material consumption.