Most people don’t spend their travels visiting universities, but as a high school college counselor, that’s sometimes how I find myself occupying my days. I’ve recently been in southern Ontario, and I’m happy to offer highlights, oddities, delights, and the occasional disappointment from eight different schools.
University of Toronto, St. George Campus
The University of Toronto, founded in 1827, is the oldest institution of higher learning in all of Canada. With 90,000 students across three campuses, it is truly enormous. Most of the undergraduates are at the historic St. George campus, which sits right in the middle of downtown Toronto. The buildings range from the centuries-old to the new.
This Gothic Revival tower, which commemorates the fallen of the two world wars, is the only university building that has a working carillon (a bell instrument that’s played with a keyboard).
Medical Science Building
This 1969 building is made out of “shaggy dog” precast concrete
One of seven colleges at the university, Trinity boasts towers of both the Jacobethan and the Tudor Revival style.
Ontario College of Art and Design U., or OCAD, is Canada’s largest and oldest art school. It has the very best building in all of Toronto.
Sharp Centre for Design
This tabletop checkerboard, built in 2004, sits four stories up in the air. It is supported by a series of colorful pillars …
… which make it look like it’s floating above the ground:
Once called Western Ontario University, Western has been around since 1878. Its large, expansive campus sits in the otherwise uninspired town of London, Ontario.
This is one of those 1920s Collegiate Gothic buildings that screams “quintessential college campus” to me.
Ivey Business School
A 2013 “geode” on the opposite end of the architectural spectrum.
I had the privilege of going out on the ice, home to the Western Mustangs hockey team, on the opening night of a conference hosted by Western.
Originally founded as an agricultural college, Guelph had the happiest-sounding students of any of the campuses I visited. It still has plenty of callbacks to its farming and horticultural roots.
This 400-acre plant collection includes a Honey Bee Research Centre!
Conservatory and Gardens
I’m a sucker for any perfectly round building, especially for one that was built to hold livestock auctions and now houses a coffee shop.
Lots of Grey-Beige Buildings
Greyish-beige buildings are a feature of many Canadian universities (we’ll see more as we go along).
Gryphons Athletic Centre
I love the look of this 2017 behemoth.
Canada’s STEM powerhouse, Waterloo is best known for engineering and its extensive co-op programs.
Orange people doing science in an orange room!
They have an actual giant rock garden where you can learn about rocks and minerals.
Museum of Earth Sciences
This somewhat outdated space has lots of indoor rocks, including petrified wood from Arizona …
… and a replica of a mine!
You’ll start to see a theme here.
Ok, these technically aren’t part of Waterloo itself — but it’s worth noting that you can get really great food in Kitchener, Waterloo’s hometown. I would recommend The China Bowl for excellent Chinese food and the Loloan Lobby Bar for a fabulous setting and out-of-this-world cocktails inspired by South East Asian cuisine.
Mac has been around since 1890, but it moved to its present location in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1930.
Another of those university buildings from the 1930s built in the Collegiate Gothic style, this looks pretty much like no other building at Mac.
There’s a lot of beige at Mac. I would have to say that Canadian universities were not growing at the best time for architecture …
I loved this display in the library!
Why isn’t there more outdoor art on campuses in Canada (or college campuses in general)? I appreciated their having it here.
A large commuter school forty-five minutes north of central Toronto by subway (but still technically within the city’s borders), York has a wide, rambling campus.
The Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence
The exterior of this grand space is meant to evoke clouds.
The architecture firm that designed this building in 1990 says that it was created “to give York University’s sprawling suburban campus a sense of urban order.”
Cool Subway Stations
York has two subway stations right on its campus!
There’s a whole lot of grey-beige going on at York, but I thought the inside of the library was more interesting than most.
Smack in the heart of Toronto, Ryerson is a true city university, as urban as they come (but it still has grey-beige buildings — just look at the tall structure to the right below).
Tiny Green Space
This is about all the grass that Ryerson has to offer (but it doesn’t usually have tiny soccer goals — that’s just a summer camp thing).
Student Learning Centre
Completed in 2015, this is the most architecturally interesting building on Ryerson’s largely blocky campus.
Canada’s Cathedral of Hockey
Ryerson’s ice rink sits in the same building that was once known as Maple Leaf Gardens, home to everything from Elvis Presley performances to Muhammed Ali bouts to Toronto Maple Leaf games.
Once part of the facade of the Toronto Normal School, this structure forms the entrance to Ryerson’s underground athletic center.