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2021 Toronto, Ontario

The Architecture Building Must Die!

Ryerson University Option Studio

Summary of findings

Reyner Banham spoke of “total building biographies” an idea where the “initial design and construction of a building is only a small part of the architectural process (and) the use, modification, renovation, expansion, adaptive re-use, deterioration, and demolition are all part of a story that architects need to understand and manage.”


Taught by Joey Giaimo at Ryerson University’s Department of Architectural Science, this studio is about architectural abandonment, disuse, obsolescence, loss of confidence, inadequacies, and expirations. But it is also about resurgence, rehabilitation, conservation, prevention, and regenerations as a means to better engage, understand, and possibly extend a building’s “biography”.

In 2019 Ryerson University released a revised version of their Campus Master Plan, a sprawling document that considers the future of the built form and public realm of the downtown Toronto campus. This studio will address the Plan through the lens of cultural heritage, conservation, and adaptability with a focused consideration on the fate of the existing campus buildings.

The current Architecture Building is one of a dozen considered to be an “Opportunity Site” in the Plan. While this implies redevelopment, is there in fact opportunity for the rehabilitation of this aging architecture? And what does that involve? If the building is considered obsolete and inadequate in the Plan, are there design interventions that can be taken to transform its systems and spaces to ensure its efficacious existence for at least another 40 to 50 years?

And, if buildings have a set expiration, who are its caregivers to the end of its life? The Architecture Building has been deemed obsolete with a life expectancy of 10 years. If this is its fate, how is it assessed over these final years? How is it maintained through this ephemeral state and are there opportunities for experimentation and maximization of the space while awaiting demolition?

When considering the social and cultural value of places, and given our climate crisis, how do we better leverage our existing infrastructure that may be considered inadequate? From exploring disuse and regeneration through the narrative of changing contexts, can we employ design frameworks that prevent instances where buildings are neglected, abandoned, and demolished?

Buildings are of course designed by architects to address specific needs, so over time what causes this eventual abandonment? How do occupied spaces exist yet lose the confidence of the very people they serve? What are the causes? And when this (perceived) obsolescence arrives, what is the way to assess and possibly re-address? Through research and an understanding of the Goals, Principles and Frameworks of the Master Plan, students will assess whether or not these buildings can play a role in the campus’ future development, integrating design and conservation to explore architectural strategies and solutions for the existing.