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Toronto ON


University of Toronto






2,700 sf


In Partnership with Gow Hastings Architect

The renewal of the Lobby and entrance to the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) is a demonstration of the Institute’s core values to create an inclusive and impressionable space. The goal of the design was to infuse the 40 year old building with a positive spatial experience through Indigenous knowledge and perspectives. The entrance provides a sense of welcoming with an upgraded building arcade and a new glass vestibule, creating a marquee with clear signage that promotes the University of Toronto and OISE brand. The perforated sign holds an internally illuminated screen and the oversized letters “OISE” that reference the native copper used by Indigenous groups in the Great Lakes region for countless decades. Feather reed grass and Indigenous Hydrangea line the marquee. Under the shade of the marquee, benches made from cedar warm up the concrete walkway and provide a place to sit and relax.  Linear light fixtures dispersed amongst the planters highlight the landscaping and illuminate the journey to the entry, aiding in way-finding after dark.

The elevators that serve the building, OISE Library, auditoriums, café and lounge spaces are accessible through the lobby. This key circulation space was invigorated with a dual-purposed welcome and security desk, a “touch-down” counter to support with orientation, a 387 square foot living wall and clusters of flexible soft seating designed with the intention of talking circles. The circular arrangement of the furniture symbolizes completeness, and establishes a non-hierarchical order where faculty and students can gather to collaborate. The focal point of the lobby interior is the floor-to-ceiling “Dish with One Spoon” Wampum belt which symbolizes the importance of respect and responsibility for shared land. This Wampum belt is constructed with white and purple steel pipes to emulate the tubular shell beads traditionally used by Indigenous artisans on a large scale. The floor and ceiling of the lobby are inspired by the four directions and the celestial bodies which guide us. On the ceiling, lights form the pattern of the Pleiades star cluster. On the floor, a copper-coloured cross aligns with north, east, south and west. This directionality is in contrast to the OISE building, which conforms to the strict city grid. The renewed lobby is a landmark destination and positive first impression of OISE that underscores its commitment to Indigenization, accessibility, equity and sustainability. Modernizing the entry to the Bloor Street West building has resulted in way finding, branding and signage, improved accessibility and new places for students and faculty to meet.

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