Competing designs for St Lawrence market-courthouse unveiled

The Star

A jury, bolstered by public comments, will pick one of five proposals in June

Blue team: A shed roof design features  copper cladding on the roof and walls, while lower walls are clad in stone.

Councillor Pam McConnell and Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone stood shoulder to shoulder in the ballroom of St. Lawrence Hall on Friday, together drawing back a large black curtain to unveil what many in the room had waited years to see.

Behind it — Pantalone admitted he had peeked — were five architects’ submissions chosen as finalists in the competition to replace the bland St. Lawrence north market with a combined market and courtroom complex.

A jury of seven, including architects, heritage consultants, and a novelist and newspaper columnist, will choose the winner to be announced June 7.

Among the five respected firms represented are Adamson Associates, who designed the MaRS building, and Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg, who were involved in signature projects such as the revitalized Gardiner Museum, the National Ballet School and George Brown College’s waterfront campus, currently under construction.

But at the moment, the designs are anonymous and identified only by colour. The public is being invited to vote and comment on the submissions, either online or at the hall, which was slated to be open Friday until 8 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“What strikes me is the diversity. Everything is different,” said Anne Milchberg, the city’s facilities and real estate manager of development and portfolio planning, as she surveyed the displays.

Designs range from a glass-fronted structure that one spectator compared to the new opera house, to an angular plan described in the accompanying notes as a “shed form.”

Another has curved east and west walls sheathed in copper, a modern nod to the cupola on St. Lawrence Hall just to the north and the nearby spire of St. James Cathedral.

A group of students from Havergal College were clustered at the back of the room around a palatial design that appears to be two separate glass buildings joined by a glass courtyard.

The artist’s rendering of a see-through view to the north frames historic St. Lawrence Hall, where Sir John A. MacDonald stumped on his way to becoming Prime Minister and where Lieutenant Alex Dunn received Upper Canada’s first Victoria Cross in 1854.

“I like the view of St. Lawrence Hall,” said student Erica Jewitt, 14, as she considered the building. “Yeah, that’s really cool,” said her cousin Carter Jewitt, 13.

The winning design will be chosen based on factors such as environmental features, how it fits with nearby heritage buildings and its functionality for court and market users, complete with underground parking.

Public comments will be compiled by city staff and read by the jury, although it will not be bound by the votes.

However, said Milchberg, “We’re strongly encouraging people to give their opinions. We’ve always posited this as a community building and hopefully the jury will take their opinion in to account.”

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