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Location: Toronto, Canada
Awards: Co-winner (1 of 2), international competition
Principal in Charge: Robert Levit
Design Team: Alan Tse (team leader), Yusef Frasier, Zhao Pei, Kirsten Thompson, Duo Yu
A great rising plaza will create the setting for the Coptic Cathedral that is the central symbol of Coptic religious life in Toronto and Canada. Set above the street on an ascending platform, the Cathedral’s forms curve and sweep up towards its dome–the symbol of heaven. The prominence of the Cathedral’s figure upon its terraced platform will present an image of the Coptic community’s collective religious devotion — and be evident to all who pass by on the broad artery of Steeles Avenue. The Cathedral, monumental atop its elevated platform is also inviting. The rising ground allows congregants to “ascend” to their house of worship, while the continuity of the plaza’s surface with the Cathedral’s interior draws one in with open invitation.
Over time the many additional community institutions of Coptic Canadian Village will come to occupy the southern half of the Steeles Avenue site, while housing for the elderly will lie to the north of a new tree-lined street. The two halves — northern and southern — of the Canadian Coptic Village are fluidly connected to each other across their shared arborial street. To the north, elderly residents will be able to enjoy the community found in moderately dense housing, yet with the pleasures of a verdant park setting within gardens and leafy promenade. To the south more public institutions — the Cathedral, church, school and Museum gather round more public plazas and squares. The two halves are different but are fluidly connected across open spaces.
These spaces and the buildings that make them will form a complex of collective life that is rich in its internal environment and full of a surprising variety of big and small, open and closed collective places. The rich texture of institutions and their relationship to each other in space will weave together grand and small occasions, daily life and once in a life-time events, the education of children and the study of scholars (at the Museum), the private life of the elderly who come to retire in Coptic Canadian Village and the vital community life that will take place in the institutions to which they will remain deeply connected.