Final design of York University subway station revealed at TTC open house

The final design of the entrance to the York University subway station, revealed at a recent public open house, is light and airy with an open view across the Harry W. Arthurs Common to Vari Hall.

“The design of the entrance has been developed further, particularly the way it’s supported and the look of the entrance route, though we’ve maintained our design aspirations,” says James McGrath, a partner with British-based architects Foster + Partners.

Right: Architect James McGrath stands behind a model of the York University subway station

Large windows will look out across the Common, allowing light to flood the station and main concourse area. Although the initial idea was to have an entrance to the subway from the Ontario Archives and York’s Schulich School of Business, McGrath says having a main entrance for the subway station that connects riders to the University makes more sense, especially given the traffic flow – some 40,000 people are expected to use the station daily.

“It becomes the front door to the University. It’s going to be the way people will actually come…to the University. So by putting the entrance in the Common, which is the central green space, people will come through the station and experience this very wonderful space at the heart of the campus,” says McGrath. “There’s a very strong planning axis in the Common so we wanted to respond to that. We’ve done a symmetrical entrance building that responds to the axial planning that’s set up already.”

Left: Architectural drawings of the York University subway station attract the curious at the Toronto Transit Commission’s recent open house

Another planned design element is to have the structure of the building visible as a part of its architecture. Large V-shaped and Y-shaped columns, along with beams in a grid patterned across the roof, will not only support the structure but add visual interest. “It’s actually what you see and what you touch,” he says.

Right: A rendering of the final design of the York University subway station

One unique feature will be an art installation by Jason Bruges of Jason Bruges Studio on boards that will sit within the glass panels of the smoke screens, which are designed to trap smoke keeping it away from passengers until it’s whisked out by the station’s ventilation system. The glass panels, three metres long by one metre high, will hang above the platform areas for both north and southbound trains and will be covered in thousands of tiny – 10 by 10 cm – LCD panels. “We’ll create a matrix of these panels so the walls of the smoke screen and the back wall of the station become this artwork installation of these active LCD panels.”

Left: An architectural rendering of the view across the Common from the upper concourse

The LCD screens, similar to those found on solar-powered calculators, are connected to computer software which is then activated by air movement sensors in the tunnels. As a train approaches the platform, the air sensors send signals to the computer which then sends a signal to the LCD panels. “We get a visual representation on the walls of the air movement coming through the tunnel,” says McGrath. “As the train is approaching the artwork starts to animate so you actually see that a train is approaching long before the train approaches, because you see the eddies and currents and flow of the air movement represented visually on these LCD panels across the walls of the station.”

Right: A rendering of the architectural design of the main concourse

The LCD screens don’t give off light. They just reflect it in 256 variants of grey between white and black. They are expected to last about a 1,000 years and use little more than what’s required to power a laptop computer.

“I think it’s going to be a very exciting installation in the station for the students and everybody to see. It will improve your quality of experience moving through the station,” says McGrath. “I think this station is unique. It’s been designed around York University and York University’s needs.”

Left: The York University subway platform level and the art installation panels of Jason Bruges

The architects are now in the detailed part of the project, making sure all the design elements really work. At this point any changes will be minor, perhaps a different colour of material or a different pattern than originally planned, but otherwise the design is fixed.

The Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension (TYSSE) project will extend the TTC subway system from Downsview subway station to the City of Vaughan. For more information, visit the TTC website or York’s Subway Construction website.

By Sandra McLean, YFile writer