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University of Toronto – Leslie Dan Pharmacy Building (Feature Pods)

Pharmacy school and an academic division of the University of Toronto

University of Toronto–Leslie Dan Pharmacy Building (Feature Pods)

Toronto, ON

The Leslie Dan Building for the Faculty of Pharmacy is designed as a gateway to the St. George campus of the University of Toronto. The design of the 12-storey building is iconic but sensitive to the neighbouring university buildings and the nearby Ontario Parliament Building. The main volume of the building is lifted 5-storeys on a series of 19m tall architectural concrete columns that form a perimeter colonnade.


Two organic-shaped pods are featured in the 5-storey atrium of the building in contrast to the orthogonal grid of the overall building. In additional to being sculptural accents, the pods also provide functional spaces for the Faculty. The larger pod contains a 60-seat classroom within its volume and an undergraduate study lounge on top of the form. Similarly, the smaller pod houses a 24-seat classroom and the faculty lounge. The structural solution for each feature pod utilizes a series of curved steel pipe ribs which follow the exterior finished geometry. A braced steel floor framing system tops the arrangement of ribs and the overall system is suspended from the underside of the 6th floor with 75mm diameter solid steel bar inclined hangers. A single steel bridge to the main floor plate at each level provides lateral stability to the structural assembly. In addition to providing physical access to the functional spaces of the pods, the bridges are only zone of distribution for mechanical, electrical, and sprinkler systems. The outside cladding of both pods is a smooth gypsum finish with a reflective silver paint. In the evenings, the public experience the pods from outside the building through a dynamic program of theatrical lights that project onto the smooth silver volumes.


The design of the pods employed a pioneer exploration into architectural geometry and BIM. The overall geometry of each volume was optimized in response to the functions inside and the context of surrounding atrium space. The exterior shell of each form was generated with a curve of 3 linked arcs in profile swept about another curve of 3 linked arcs in plan and then mirrored about an axis of symmetry in plan. The structural framing was modelled in CATIA for coordination and then exported to the structural steel contractor for further development and detailing. The model data was the basis for CNC fabrication, such as rolling of the curved pipes, which then controlled the geometry of the finish trades on site. This approach of using the BIM model as a contract document was one of the first instances, within the Canadian construction industry. During and after construction, the project was highlighted by the industry as an example of innovation for Canada.

*Project delivered by Principals prior to joining PICCO

Architect: Foster + Partners with Canon Design

Client: University of Toronto

Completion: 2006
Category: Institutional

Project Type: Structural Engineering, 
Feature Structures

Attribution: Crispin Howes*


2006–CISC Ontario Steel Design Awards

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