Community engagement is central to the design process of 202 JarvisApril 01, 2021
Located in one of the densest neighbourhoods in Canada, Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU, formerly Ryerson University) has unique needs when it comes to expanding its landlocked campus. Our project at 202 Jarvis, delivered in partnership with Henning Larsen, will see a surface parking lot replaced with a mixed-use tower that incorporates academic spaces and teaching laboratories in the podium and a student residence above. This responds to one of TMU’s planning goals of promoting dense vertical communities that contribute to the enhancement of Toronto’s downtown core.
Given the complex nature of the building’s programming and its prominence defining the campus’ Southeast gateway, it is critical that feedback and input from the community is incorporated as early as the Master Planning Phase. This helps establish a vision that reflects the diverse needs of the users and generates long-term value for the university.
Due to ongoing public health restrictions surrounding the pandemic, the consultation process is making use of online platforms which have allowed us to maintain engagement that is both transparent and constructive. All meetings have been conducted online over Zoom and we utilize tools such as Google Sheets for users to provide direct feedback. As a living document, users can in turn see a direct response to their comments from both TMU and the Design Team. These cloud-based collaborative platforms allow us to foster accessibility in the design process and encourage a spirit of a shared effort in the project’s development.
Another tool we use early in the design process to garner feedback is the use of full-scale mock-ups. Mock-ups allow users to test relationships and flows, promote discussions and allow us to make adjustments in advance of construction, helping to mitigate risks. With physical distancing and stay-at-home orders in flux, we built a physical mock-up of a typical student residence suite which was photographed and filmed for review online. Students can therefore still get a sense of the materiality and space configuration in a virtual setting, allowing the project to progress as it would pre-pandemic.
The consultation process on 202 Jarvis will continue as the project enters Design Development. Regardless of the global situation, effective engagement with clients and end users can be maintained. The process does require thorough planning, empathetic facilitation and cooperation to optimize the experience. Our role as architects is to bring awareness to the design process, to provide enough time and access for review and feedback, and to ensure that voices are heard throughout the engagement.
Nano Suite 3D mockup by Zeidler Architecture, Henning Larsen and Toronto Metropolitan University