OISE Lobby Update Provides Positive First Impression

By Valerie Gow

The renewal of the lobby and entrance to the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto (UofT) builds upon the institute’s core values to create an inclusive and impressionable space. Designed in collaboration with Indigenous design consultant Two Row Architect, the project infuses Indigenous knowledge and perspectives into the fabric of the 40-year-old building to ensure positive spatial experiences for all.

The design dramatically brightens the lobby and entrance, drawing students, staff and visitors into a secure and well-connected access point with updated wayfinding and signage. At the entrance, a modernized building arcade and west ramp enhances building access. The new glass vestibule replaces heavy, outdated revolving entrance doors, creating a transparent entrance sequence with improved access and clear signage that promotes the UofT and OISE brand. Inside the lobby, guests are greeted by a new welcome/security desk to assist with orientation, a full height living wall, a touchdown counter and clusters of flexible furniture.

The original flooring of the lobby was made of 1960s-era brown quarry tiles. The tiles were visibly worn and grew increasingly impractical over time. They lacked traction, were slippery when wet and required the flooring to be covered with rugs during colder months. This resulted in much of the flooring being concealed for a majority of the year.

In developing the new design, textured grey porcelain tiles by Olympia Tile were used to replace the old ones. A warm charcoal grey was chosen to complement the colour palette of the project and hide winter salt stains. These porcelain tiles are slip-resistant, eliminating any need for rug coverings in winter months. Additionally, the larger 24-inch by 24-inch format visually expands the space and minimizes grout lines for easy maintenance.

The exterior arcade is finished in Ciot Technica’s Atlantic Black granite. This Canadian stone was selected for its durability and slip resistance. Granite is a strong material that can withstand the harsh temperature and weather changes associated with Toronto. The dark colour of the tile also eases maintenance concerns, especially in colder months.

With the building located directly above a subway tunnel, vibration and movement caused some cracking in the existing porcelain tiles. To prevent this in future, movement joints were installed and concealed by a strategically placed tile grid. Using Indigenous design elements, a decorative brass inlay aligns with the four cardinal directions and diverts attention away from the movement joints.

Valerie Gow is co-founder of Gow Hastings Architects, which she leads with Philip Hastings. Since 2002, the Toronto-based practice has been recognized as an industry leader in the creation and transformation of post-secondary institutions.

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