May 8, 2023
Dear Premier Ford,
This letter is to express our concerns with the Ontario Government’s plans to move the Ontario Science Centre, as announced on April 18, 20231. We respectfully request a meeting at the earliest convenience to discuss this issue.
The RAIC urges the Province of Ontario to pause and reconsider their plans to relocate the Ontario Science Centre and any demolition of this iconic architectural landmark. There are three themes that underpin our concerns:
- Architectural Design Excellence
- Social Impact & Community Engagement
“The most sustainable building is almost always one that is already built”
- Carl Elefante, FAIA, LEED AP
According to John Carmichael, chair of the centre's board of trustees, the Ontario Science Centre building, first opened in 1969, is in need of repairs. Furthermore, Infrastructure Minister Kinga Surma has stated there is a business case to build a new Science Centre at Ontario Place, as it is more cost effective rather than investing in improvements at its current location. But has the government deeply and intentionally considered reuse of this building?
Given the Ontario government’s Made-In-Ontario Environment Plan2, it is its responsibility to innovate solutions that address building renewal, avoid demolition and fulfill the goals of reducing waste that goes to landfill, safe clean water, protecting air, species and natural spaces, climate change, holding polluters accountable and balanced infrastructure and environmental protection.
The built environment demands around 40 per cent of the world’s extracted materials while waste from demolition and construction represents the largest single waste stream in many countries. In Canada, the buildings sector is the third-largest source of emissions, therefore prioritizing decarbonization, i.e., reducing or ending emissions into the atmosphere, is key to meeting zero-emission objectives3.
The evidence indicates that renovation projects usually save between 50–75% of embodied carbon emissions compared to constructing a new building456. This is especially true if the foundations and structure are already preserved, as most of the embodied carbon will already be there and this drastically reduces new emissions.
It is not clear that the government has considered the embodied carbon that would come from the demolished concrete, and the carbon costs related to constructing a new building in the context of the climate crisis when all measures to decarbonize should be taken.
Call to Action: The RAIC calls for the government to pause this relocating project and consider the most environmentally responsible approach. Instead, focusing on adaptive reuse – i.e., retrofitting and repurposing what is already in existence with the latest environmental technologies, while conserving resources and historic value. as the most environmentally responsible approach.
Social Impact & Community Engagement
For more than 50 years, the Ontario Science Centre has delighted and inspired millions of visitors to love science, technology and innovation. Tearing down the Ontario Science Centre would entail demolishing a precious part of Ontario and Canada’s award-winning architecture.
The RAIC stands with Moriyama Teshima Architects7, the Toronto Society of Architects8 and many others who clearly outline the incredible importance of the Centre as a cultural institution in the local community. This institution serves as a critical community hub and is among the few large-scale cultural institutions outside of the city centre. The Ontario Science Centre is a mutual place of significance for many Ontarians.
The RAIC is unaware of any previous consultation sessions on this topic and urges the Province to engage Ontarians to participate in a conversation about the future of the Ontario Science Centre. The Ontario Science Centre is a landmark and cultural institution that is significant to Canada.
Call to Action: The RAIC urges the Province to create meaningful opportunities for Ontarians to participate in a conversation about the future of the Ontario Science Centre and co-create a solution that is best for their community.
Architectural Design Excellence
The Ontario Science Centre is precious part of Ontario and Canada’s award-winning architecture. It opened in 1969 as one of Ontario's projects for the Canadian Centennial, funded both provincially and with a federal grant. Designed by Moriyama Teshima Architects, it represents an era of bold civic construction aimed at establishing a unique Canadian architectural identity, and it is one of several landmarks throughout the country erected to commemorate Canada's centennial. It was designed to suit its location, adapting to the fluctuating levels of the Don River ravine and creating an irreplaceable link between the building and the landscape. Its spaces are designed to engage all senses, encouraging exploration and physical interaction, reflecting the science centre's role as a pioneer of hands-on science education.
Call to Action: The RAIC calls for the government to renew this world class historic facility as it is a reflection of our government and this generation’s commitment to design excellence.
The RAIC is ready and willing to help find solutions and strongly recommends that the government engage directly with the architectural community to find a solution that can balance the financial, social and environmental goals of Ontario. A robust and creative conversation around renewal may well uncover ideas and unite people around shared goals.
As always, the RAIC is available to collaborate with the Government of Ontario to create a better Toronto, Ontario and Canada.
Looking forward to your response,
|Jason Robbins||Mike Brennan|
|President||Chief Executive Officer|
About the RAIC
The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) is a not-for-profit, national organization dedicated to representing architects and architecture since 1907. The RAIC is the only national voice for excellence in the built environment in Canada focused on providing Canada’s architectural community with the tools, resources, and education to elevate their practice. The RAIC is committed to showcasing how design enhances quality of life, while advocating for important issues of society through responsible architecture. The RAIC’s purpose is to create a better world for all by empowering Canada’s architectural community. Through our work, the organization envisions a strong architectural community that is valued and empowered to create change.
3 Natural Resources Canada Green buildings (canada.ca)
4 American Institute of Architects-10 steps to reducing embodied carbon. Retrieved from: 10 steps to reducing embodied carbon - AIA