Peeking Inside Toronto’s New Renzo Piano-Designed Ontario Court of Justice Building

On the last day of February, Infrastructure Ontario hosted a ribbon cutting ... Read more

20220718 175041000 iOS - Peeking Inside Toronto's New Renzo Piano-Designed Ontario Court of Justice Building

On the last day of February, Infrastructure Ontario hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony at the new Ontario Court of Justice, marking the completion of the $956 million project. Designed by the internationally acclaimed Renzo Piano Building Workshop with Toronto’s NORR Architects and Planners, the 17-storey institutional tower was conceived as a way to amalgamate a number of different courtrooms and legal facilities across the city, bringing them all together under one roof. While that transition continues, one UrbanToronto Forum contributor, ADRM, ventured inside to scope the project out up close, and has provided us with a set of images offering the first glimpse of how the building’s highly touted interiors were executed.  

Looking north at the finished exterior of the new Ontario Court of Justice, image by UT Forum Contributor Urban-Affair

Any conversation of the building’s interior begins at the grade level, with a look through the project’s marquee space: the entrance atrium. Occupying a substantial chunk of the southeast corner of the building, the atrium plays the important role of setting the tone for a building that is trying to express a level of authority in a way that is mindful to not create an oppressive atmosphere as a result. The space enjoys a lofty clearance of 20 metres, four floors-worth in this building, and both street fronting elevations (south and east) are clad entirely with curtainwall glazing here, making the presence of natural light one of the primary features of the space. 

The atrium space, with 20m ceilings, sets the tone for the rest of the building, image by UT Forum contributor ADRM

The verticality of the space is expressed in clever ways, like the use of steel cables to hang the various stairs and walkways from the ceiling. This approach references functionalist design, which generally sees engineered systems and raw materials as prominent features of the design, and aligns with the modern thrust of the building’s design more generally. Balancing these more austere qualities are purely decorative elements like the bright yellow accent wall, as well as the montage of images festooning the wall, and memorializing multicultural history of the site, which was once the home of St John’s Ward, a settlement for many of Toronto’s earliest immigrants.

Moving up into the courtroom levels of the building, we can see how the visual themes of the atrium carry over into the other floors. The yellow accent wall is featured again to add some colour to the space pictured below, while the inclusion of wood finishes stands out as a thoughtful addition to the material palette, bringing natural textures to a space that would otherwise lack the warmth of organic qualities. 

The yellow accent wall is joined by wood finishes to add life to courthouse levels, image by UT Forum contributor ADRM

Another image offers a glimpse of the design approach to the transitional spaces which people will move through. The same yellow finish is applied to the elevator cores, which feature six elevators, while the floor-to-ceiling windows from the lobby work to bring natural light far into the floor plates. Visual interest is created by the angles of the escalators and stairs offering connections to other floors, while the benches maintain a simple but stylish modern appearance that aligns well with the character of the building. 

The windows of the atrium allow natural light to fill other spaces on different floors, image by UT Forum contributor ADRM

To see the entire, extensive set of photos from ADRM’s walkthrough of the building, click here.

For the Ontario Court of Justice, the project represents the province’s efforts to “support equal access to court services,” and provides the court with a facility that enables “centralized criminal case management, a greater concentration of expertise, and the effective and efficient scheduling of officials,” according to a statement from Attorney General Doug Downey. Offering a total of 73 new hearing rooms, the building is characterized as be the most accessible courthouse in the province, and was designed to achieve the LEED Silver standard of sustainable building design. 

UrbanToronto will continue to follow progress on this development, but in the meantime, you can learn more about it from our Database file, linked below. If you’d like, you can join in on the conversation in the associated Project Forum thread or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.

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UrbanToronto has a research service, UrbanToronto Pro, that provides comprehensive data on construction projects in the Greater Toronto Area—from proposal through to completion. We also offer Instant Reports, downloadable snapshots based on location, and a daily subscription newsletter, New Development Insider, that tracks projects from initial application.

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