Design for the Future

Feb 26, 2020
MSB west wing
The quality of the space we occupy is critical to our current and long-term success. At U of T, we have superb examples of how well-designed space enables collaborative research and learning. In Medicine, spaces like the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research (CCBR) and the Translational Biology and Engineering Program labs in MaRS, part of the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research, demonstrate how effective design can spur research collaboration.

But, we also have examples of how space can be a hinderance. Design decisions were made that assumed most research would be conducted in small wet labs, and that most learning would occur in lecture halls. While our approaches to research and learning have changed, our space — with some exceptions — has not. We need to have the space that fits our ambitions if we are going to continue to be one of the world’s top universities for the medical sciences.

In our 2018 – 2023 Academic Strategic Plan, the Faculty of Medicine committed to review our physical space to ensure it meets our current and future needs. This is why we are undertaking a master programming study, which is now beginning. In the parlance of space planning, master programming is an evaluative tool that asks critical questions like:

  • What and how do we support the education, research and innovation programs now, and what will they look like in the future?
  • Is the current space of sufficient quality to enable that work? Is the current space of sufficient quantity to enable that work? If not, what’s optimal?

It’s an opportunity to understand where we are now, but also to look towards the future and understand what will be needed. This will provide us with an evidentiary-based foundation to make future space planning decisions for the Faculty of Medicine. We have enlisted the services of Perkins Eastman, an international planning, design, and consulting firm, to help us with this work.

To ensure this project is manageable, we will begin with a thorough review of the Medical Sciences Building (MSB). In time, we intend to review other space occupied by the Faculty of Medicine. But, as MSB is the Faculty’s largest space — representing 56 per cent of space occupied on the St. George and Mississauga campuses — we thought this was the appropriate place to start.

In considering possible new spaces for the Faculty of Medicine, the University administration has asked that we begin by working within the Faculty of Medicine’s current footprint. So, as part of the review of MSB, a feasibility study will be undertaken to consider the potential redevelopment of the west wing of the building. Of our current space, the west wing of the Medical Sciences Building is the only possible site for redevelopment. Other spaces are restricted due to other considerations, including heritage designations and proximity concerns. To be clear, a feasibility study is not a commitment to redevelop. It is only an opportunity to understand what could be possible and how it might be done.

As part of this master planning study, we will be consulting with building occupants, conducting tours of spaces throughout the Faculty, and collecting data. The Office of Facilities Management and Space Planning (FMSP) has been — and will continue to be —in contact with units and occupants as needed. We appreciate that projects like this might generate many questions and expectations. FMSP is maintaining a list of Frequently Asked Questions and updating both questions and answers as needed. We anticipate this work will be completed in early fall 2020 and there will be further information to share as this project progresses.

We believe this is just the beginning of an effort to better define our space requirements and envision a Faculty of Medicine for the future. Not only do we look forward to having you join us on that journey, but to help chart the path forward.

Richard Hegele
Vice Dean, Research and Innovation

Patricia Houston
Vice Dean, MD Program


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