As classes get underway at colleges and universities around Ontario for the 2011-2012 school year, many students are returning to campuses that have recently opened beautiful new facilities meant to address the growing need for classroom and other post-seconday academic space in the province. In fact, there are too many new buildings to go into in depth in this article, so we will skim over a few, and direct you to web pages that have more info for those of you who want more details.

First, a stop at the University of Toronto Mississauga, where a number of new high-architectural-quality buildings are underway or have been completed in the last couple of years. Most recently opened is the Instructional Centre by Shore Tilbe Perkins + Will, now Perkins+Will Canada. This building, most dramatically marked by its patinated copper exterior, increases classroom space at the Mississauga campus by 50%.

Instructional Centre at UTM, by Shore Tilbe Perkins + Will CanadaInstructional Centre at University of Toronto Mississauga, image courtesy of Shore Tilbe Perkins + Will

The south side of the exterior features awnings lined with photvoltaic cells which provide both shade when the sun is at its highest, and power for the complex. Traditionally leaders in new technologies, many academic institutions have environmental concerns high on their lists these days, and these awnings make up part of the investment that should have this building certified as LEED Gold soon.

Instructional Centre at UTM, by Shore Tilbe Perkins + Will CanadaInstructional Centre at University of Toronto Mississauga by Shore Tilbe Perkins + Will, image by Craig White

The interior of the UTM Instructional Centre is just as dramatic as the exterior, if not even more so, with the patinated copper continuing inside and lining the walls, such as in the atrium pictured below. Many more renderings and photos can be found for this building in our dataBase listing, including a panorama of the atrium from the balcony pictured opposite, which you will find linked at the bottom of this page. Renderings make up the first set of images you will see; a photo tour of the building, interior and exterior, makes up the second set at the bottom of the dataBase page.

Instructional Centre at UTM, by Shore Tilbe Perkins + Will CanadaInstructional Centre at University of Toronto Mississauga by Shore Tilbe Perkins + Will, image by Craig White

The Univeristy of Toronto Scarborough has the same issue as the Mississauga campus: increasing enrollment, and a commensurate need for new places in which to teach. At UTSC, Diamond + Schmitt Architects and Ellis Don were hired to design and construct a new building that would increase classroom space by 25% in two quick years. The resulting triangular Instructional Centre at the northwest corner of Ellesmere Avenue and Military Trail presents both glass-and-steel and black brick facades on either side of a welcoming entrance plaza facing the corner.

Instructional Centre at UTSC by Diamond + Schmitt ArchitectsInstructional Centre at University of Toronto Scarborough, image by Cicada Design, courtesy of Diamond + Schmitt Architects

Much of this building's glass skin features a 20% ceramic frit on the glass, cutting down on solar heat gain, while that same sunlight is put to good use up top as more than 20,000 square feet of photovoltaic solar panels are positioned on the roof. They will provide enough power that the U of T will be able to sell excess to Ontario Hydro. Meanwhile, an auditorium in the building is topped by an insulating green roof. Inside the building an atrium rises through the four floors to form a specatular gathering place; that atrium provided the perfect setting for the opening ceremonies on August 31st.

Instructional Centre at UTSC by Diamond + Schmitt ArchitectsOpening of the Instructional Centre at University of Toronto Scarborough, image by Craig White

As with the Instructional Centre at UTM, the UTSC building has an UrbanToronto dataBase entry linked below which presents more renderings, and many more photos of the building's many features, including a close-up look at a fritted window if you have never gotten up close and personal with one yet, along with photos of a glass bridge that links faculty offices to the classroom areas, and a faculty lounge overlooking the lush Highland Creek valley.

Not far from UTSC, and closer to Scarborough City Centre, is the Progress Campus of Centennial College, the first college in Ontario to open up under the program set up by former premier William G. Davis. Centennial is the new home of another Diamond + Schmitt beauty, this one also expanding the campus's classroom space, and making a new home for its library behind a rich oxidized-copper-hued brick facade.

Centennial College Library and Academic Facility by Diamond + Schmitt ArchitectsCentennial College Library and Academic Facility, image by Cicada Design, courtesy of Diamond + Schmitt Architects

The library is located behind the serrated edge of north-facing windows in the rendering above. Inside the windows make for a highly articulated light-filled double-floor space.

Centennial College Library and Academic Facility by Diamond + Schmitt ArchitectsCentennial College Library, by Diamond + Schmitt Architects, image by Craig White

Classrooms and study areas are found above, below, and around all sides of the library, encircling the building's central atrium. Replete with projecting balconies which provide casual study space like at the UTSC Instructional Centre, the Centennial College Library and Academic Centre's atrium is dominated by a lush biofilter living wall by an Ontario leader in field, Nedlaw. The wall acts as an air purifier, a humdifier, and a spectacular visual and aural centrepiece for the building. Constantly watered by a drip-through system, the soft sounds of falling water could be heard in the background during the August 26th opening ceremonies below, while the wall's plants gave the space an amazing air quality: it smelled great, and you soon found realized you were taking deeper breaths than normal, as if your body was telling you it wanted more of what you were suddenly getting here. I felt like finding a course to enroll in at Centennial just so I could fill my lungs with this air more frequently: it was surprising how much of a mood enhancer great air can be!

Centennial College Library and Academic Facility by Diamond + Schmitt ArchitectsOpening of the Centennial College Library and Academic Facility, by Diamond + Schmitt Architects, image by Craig White

That's a small hint of the good things in this buidling, and you know the drill by now: we have several more renderings and many more photos of it in our dataBase listing for it, linked below. Check Centennial College and the others out when you have finished this article!

Finally, a quick nod to another Diamond + Schmitt college building, this one the Construction Excellence Centre at Algonquin College in Ottawa. As it is outside of the GTA, UrbanToronto does not have a dataBase listing for the building, but the spectacular green-roof garden areas are keeping us from closing off this piece before we mention it too.

Algonquin Centre for Construction Excellence, Ottawa, by Diamond + SchmittAlgonquin Centre for Construction Excellence, Ottawa, image by Cicada Design, courtesy of Diamond + Schmitt Architects

Open for classes while the ribbon has not officially been cut yet, the Algonquin Centre for Construction Excellence is targetting LEED Platinum certification, and beyond the green features we can see on the exterior, its interior features another of the bio-filter walls by Nedlaw Living Walls that we love at Centennial College. If you are interested in checking out one of Nedlaw's biofilter walls near you, their website features their growing list of installations in the GTA and beyond.