Architecture Rant: The Pharmacy Building – blogUT

U of T’s architectural gems tend to stay away from the periphery of our downtown campus (ie. Spadina to the west, Bloor to the north, Bay-ish to the east, and College to the south). Con Hall, UC, Old Vic, Robarts, and even the dreadful MedSci are more or less invisible to the public whizzing by on the streetcar. However, this does not hold true for one of the newest additions to the U of T Architecture Hall of Fame: the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy Building, gracefully plopped on the northwest corner of University Avenue and College Street. Completed in ’07, it shows how wild and gregarious spending was before the global financial meltdown and ensuing hellscape of ’08.

She has all the forward thinking-ness of the Terrence Donnelley Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research (the glass tower attached to MedSci) but without the near childish use of colour. Where Donnelley slaps you in the face with a curved red wall and random blocks of colour throughout its glass facade, Pharmacy gently implies monochrome maturity and refinement. Save for the suburban style front lawn, the Pharmacy Building proclaims to the public that it is U of T territory. We should be glad that our southeastern sentinel is so beautiful.

The Donnely Building on the left has a near childish use of colour. Pharmacy to the right is more mature.

To be fair, Pharmaceutical Studies students pay hefty tuition and no small reason for that is to pay off the debt for such a magnificent structure. Although glib, the tower instills a sense of professional pride in pharmacy far more than its former home, the current Anthropology building – a 60’s stone block hidden away from public view.

The former Pharmacy Building, hidden away from the public hardly instills a sense of professional pride (no offense Anthro ????

The building elevates the professional image of Pharmacy and may be playing a part in the huge increase of applicants in recent years. One can argue that Pharmacy is an exceedingly economic pursuit, as there’s big money to be made in selling colourful pills to treat what ails us. The building reflects this: the Apotex student atrium and lecture halls, the WalMart Canada professional practice lab, the Rexall PharmaPlus Conference Room, the Pfizer tenth floor custodian’s closet, and the GlaxoSmithKline men’s basement urinal.

Professionals in the practice of blabbing about urban design love mentioning how the Pharmacy Building has a ‘relationship’ with the Ontario Power Generation Building south of College and the Tanz Neuroscience Building just to the north. Pharmacy uses a similar architectural style to Ontario Power, a reflective glass block atop mighty concrete support columns, while Pharmacy’s exposed concrete supports are the same height as Tanz, showing much appreciated respect to the antique nature of Tanz. After all, science depends on the countless hours of work done by those who came before.

The Pharmacy Building forms a seamless urban fabric by using a similar style to the Ontario Power Generation Building to the south. It shows RESPECT to the Tanz Building to the North by way of its exposed concrete columns.

The building’s interior is just as rewarding as its exterior. The same mature ambiance permeates every facet of its construction: cool coloured floor tiles, black leather chairs, simple geometric tables, and exposed concrete walls. The donut-style superstructure of the tower allows sunlight to shower down from the ceiling, reaching the first floor and the anemic lab rats performing research.

Scenes from Pharmacy: Top Left: Entering the Apotex Student Study Zone. Top Right: A mature public space to share notes and lunch. Bottom Left: Looking down on the Study Zone and trying not to break out in a cold sweat of height-inducing fear. Bottom Right: Sweet Joy! Even the banal utility corridors have sunlight!

However, I, along with many other Pharmacy Building users have one complaint: the elevators are slow! It shouldn’t take ten seconds for the doors to open and close. There’s a reason why we’re in them – it’s supposed to be faster than taking the stairs. At least there’s an excellent view of who paid for much of its construction:

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