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Competition: Toronto courthouse, Canada

Infrastructure Ontario (IO) has launched an international design and delivery contest for a new high-rise central courthouse in Toronto (Deadline: 8 July)

The project will create a new 25-storey LEED Silver tower consolidating six existing courthouses on a prominent downtown site.

Planned to start on site in 2017, the development is backed by the Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG) which is working with IO to reduce its operating costs and boost efficiency.



Source: Image by Taxiarchos228

Toronto City Hall

AECOM Canada has been selected planning, design and compliance consultant for the scheme and will work with the winning team to deliver the building.

Shortlisted teams will be invited to draw up proposals in the autumn following an initial requests for qualification (RFQ) round.

The winning team will design, build, finance and maintain the new facility which will remain in public ownership.

Proposals must not obstruct views of the neighbouring city hall designed by Finnish architect Viljo Revell in 1965.



Source: Image by Infrastructure Ontario

Toronto Courthouse site

Built to replace Toronto’s iconic sandstone Old City Hall, the towering modernist structure is locally known as ‘The Eye of the Government’.

An archaeological dig on the prominent site – which is currently used as a car park – unearthed thousands of artefacts including a historic church and traces of a residential district.

Once part of the city’s St John’s Ward, the area was a popular landing place for African-Canadians escaping slavery via the Underground Railroad in the mid-1800s.

Commemorative art installations – designed by PA System for Toronto’s STEPS Initiative – are planned to highlight the plot’s history on site hoardings during construction.

Ceiling heights of four metres will be needed for the new publicly owned courtrooms with ‘state-of-the-art’ video conference and evidence facilities also required.

For security reasons only one entrance to the tower – facing south onto the plaza on Armoury Street – will be allowed.

Public realm improvements will also be delivered to the east and west of the new structure which will be cleared of surrounding street parking.

Ontario is investing $160 billion CAD in new infrastructure over the next 12 years.

How to apply


3pm local time (EDT) on 8 July

Contact details

Infrastructure Ontario
Suite 2000
1 Dundas St. West
M5G 2L5

Tel: 416-327-3937

View the RFQ and project website for more information

Frederiksberg Courthouse case study: Q&A with Kim Herforth Nielsen

The founder and creative director of 3XN discusses lessons learned designing a new courthouse for Copenhagen



Kim Herforth Nielsen

How did your Frederiksberg Courthouse respond to its immediate context and users’ requirements?

Our proposal took its cues from the distinct roof and robust materials of the neighbouring neo-classical facility designed by Hack Kampmann. We were careful to compose the design with clear references to the architectural style of the refined neighbourhood of Frederiksberg while still distinctly making its mark within the context of the place. We aspired to a structure that is both classical and dynamic, with its curved form standing as a modern interpretation of the classical saddle style roof.

We positioned the new building at a respectful angle of 45 degrees to the listed existing court building. This created an open corridor between the two buildings while maintaining a visual distinction for the Hack Kampmann building.



Frederiksberg Courthouse by 3XN

What material, structural, spatial and other techniques are available to designers seeking to achieve a similar impact?

We designed the facade as an expression of the structure’s solidity. Light coloured brick establishes a relationship between the existing building-scape and the surroundings while providing the building with its own sense of identity.

While the exterior form places emphasis on adjacencies with the existing building, the interior focuses on compliance with the law reform’s requirements on security and internal segregation of the three different users. The building provides its employees, the defendants, witnesses and guests an open environment but with separated flow between the different user groups.

A small atrium cuts through the middle of the building, drawing light deep into the interior and creating an open and airy connection across departments. This creates the feeling of direct daylight in the rooms and gives a general lightness to the building’s inner core, meeting the visitors as they come up from the foyer.

How would you set about designing a new courthouse which reflects the cultural and historic landscape of Toronto?

Many of the demands or challenges when designing a courthouse – especially security – are universal and confronted whether working in Toronto or Tunisia. While Toronto is historically a red brick city, its recent developments include many glass towers. But I would not select glass for a courthouse. It may sound conservative, but courthouses are symbolic and represent the foundation of the law in a democracy and I believe that they can be serious but also beautiful and inviting.

Toronto’s City Hall is an example of a public building that offers something more to the community – a large public plaza – beyond its basic function. I would take inspiration from this when designing a new courthouse. It should be a link to and part of the city that responds meaningfully to security needs while remaining open to the community.



Frederiksberg Courthouse by 3XN