The Pond Road Residence has downtown sophistication

It’s safe to say that the door to any “middle of nowhere” jokes about York University slammed shut once and for all in 1991, suggested The Globe and Mail’s “architourist” Dave Leblanc May 26. That’s when what many consider to be the campus’s much-needed “front door” – Raymond Moriyama’s Vari Hall – opened directly in front of the imposing, brutalist Ross Building, and began a transformation of the country’s third-largest university into a much friendlier place. Since then, the Keele campus has been a hotbed of new construction, resulting in pedestrian-scaled streetscapes and public spaces where there were once windswept and weedy fields, in essence creating a “somewhere” within its boundaries.

In 2000, the campus got two other things it might not have known it needed: a “gatehouse” in the form of Stephen Teeple’s Honour Court/Information Centre nestled snugly into a fork in the eastern arterial road, and the Computer Science Building, the University’s first structure by the highly regarded firm of architectsAlliance (in collaboration with Busby & Associates Architects).

Last September, York got its second architectsAlliance building and, with it, an instant dose of sexy downtown condo sophistication: the deliciously candy-coloured, curtain-walled Pond Road Residence, continued the Globe. Unlike the University of Toronto’s tight city lots, York’s wide-open spaces allow architectural ideas to spread out. (Even with all the recent SuperBuild projects there’s still room.)

At The Pond Road Residence – a C-shaped building cradling a semi-private courtyard – the ideas of the architectsAlliance team have spread a full 300 feet along The Pond Road, where the structure is five storeys, then along Atkinson Road, where it is joined to a nine-storey tower.

Built in just 15 months, the building wouldn’t be out of place next to Finnish architect Eero Saarinen’s award-winning and exquisitely modernist General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Mich. (1951-1957). The residence is a long, rectangular, concrete-framed “box on stilts,” cantilevering over the highly transparent ground-floor common area. It is at once a deft stroke of international style: crispness combined with a dash of the new, playful “Toronto condo style” invented, pretty much, by architectsAlliance under the direction of Peter Clewes.

It’s also a place that idealistic 18- to 22- year-olds can feel good about living in, says architectsAlliance’s project coordinator, Mara Nicolaou, since it’s the first “green” student housing building in Ontario. One of York’s mandates from the very beginning was to try to make it as green as possible,” she said. “It was wonderful to work for a client that would look at paying a premium to benefit our environment.

TTC pension could fund subways

The Toronto Transit Commission is willing to invest its own pension money to help the city expand transit service, the transit authority’s boss said Thursday, reported the Toronto Star May 27. “Why not?” said chief general manager Rick Ducharme. “If you got the return guaranteed in the form of security from the government, why not?” Ducharme was reacting to an announcement Wednesday from the Ontario government that Queen’s Park would begin to woo pension fund operators to help it raise money for much-needed public infrastructure. The province plans to raise capital for new subway lines, schools and hospitals, and guarantee the investments through its “ReNew Ontario” program.

Building a subway to York University and completing the Sheppard subway line to Scarborough Town Centre are projects that would fit the program. Each would cost between $1 billion and $2 billion.

Dan Iannuzzi Park gets the green light

The Toronto city council unanimously approved a proposal to name a park next to York University‘s Keele campus after Dan Iannuzzi, the founder of Corriere Canadese/Tandem, reported Corriere Canadese May 29. The park will be located north of Murray Ross Parkway and west of Sentinel Road. “This is a just recognition for a man who gave so much to Canada and to the Italian-Canadian community,” said councillor Peter Li Preti.

Lions’ coordinator guest-coaches Roughriders

Billy McBride, Andy McEvoy and Blair Thompson will be the guest coaches at the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ 2005 training camp, reported Regina’s Leader-Post May 27. McEvoy, who is the offensive coordinator at York University, will assist Marcel Bellefeuille with the running backs.

Playwriting competition announces 2005 winners

Pierre Beaumier won second place in Theatre PEI’s 24th annual New Voices Playwriting Competition Awards for his full-length play Living Translations, reported The Guardian in Charlottetown May 27. Beaumier was born in Montreal and graduated from York University in 1997 with a bachelor of arts in English. He writes novels as well as plays.

Professors devise educational computer game

A computer game being developed by a Simon Fraser University education professor aims to teach teenagers about contagious diseases, reported the National Post May 27. Developer Suzanne de Castell said Contagion is in its prototype form, but when she and colleague Jennifer Jenson of York’s Faculty of Education have completed the game, it will be a way to teach 11- to 14-year-olds not just about the dangers of such diseases but also about the often inadequate ways officialdom deals with them.

On air

  • David McNally, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts and author of Another World is Possible: Globalization and Anti-Capitalism, discussed a variety of words and phrases and what they mean, on TVO’s “More to Life” May 26.