OAC Toronto envisions a future in which all community members can collaborate in building an inclusive, sustainable and socially responsible city.
We connect socially-minded designers with members of under-served communities. We listen to, advocate for, educate, learn and design with these communities to realize positive changes in the built spaces of their neighbourhoods.
The Open Architecture Collaborative (OAC) Toronto chapter has been providing City of Toronto communities with socially responsible design solutions since 2003 and was incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation in 2017. We connect marginalized and underserved communities with our local network of volunteers who work and study in the field of architecture and design. OAC Toronto believes good design can positively influence our well-being and that it should be available to all. Our aim is to educate designers and leaders to advocate for socially-conscious, human-centred design practices that heal individuals, heal our communities; and helps create sustainable and healthy urban environments.
“OAC bridges design and humanitarianism together, creating a unique experience to collaborate with creative types and work on important community projects. My involvement with this team offered me the unique opportunity to work on a very meaningful international project and exposed me to new design approaches through discussion with the multi-disciplinary team. I am so glad to have been part of this positive organization.” – Andrew Taylor, Volunteer
- Founded in 2003
- 20+ Active Volunteers
- 3 Ongoing Projects
Expropriate 214 - 230 Sherbourne
OAC Toronto collaborated with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) and allied intern architects and academics on a campaign:
To call on the City of Toronto to expropriate a series of vacant lots on Sherbourne Street in the downtown east for rent-geared-to-income housing.
We helped facilitate a design charrette to gather feedback on what local residents desire for the site, in terms of overall building form, ground floor programs, public space qualities, and domestic space qualities. These findings were compiled in a report which included a speculative design for the site that synthesized the inputs of the community and galvanized support for the project. Together, we presented the report along with a model of the speculative design, at a meeting of the Affordable Housing Committee at City Hall.
Park People Public Space Incubator
In the spring of 2019, OAC Toronto assisted the St. James Town Community Corner and The Neighbourhood Office with developing a proposal for funding from the Park People Public Space Incubator Program.
St. James Town is the densest and one of the most racially diverse neighbourhoods in Canada.
In recent years, it is facing a wave of redevelopment, with at least five new high-rise apartments drastically increasing the population and impacting access to open spaces. Thus far, many of the public consultations around the redevelopments have been inaccessible to residents for multiple reasons: language and communication barriers, scheduling of consultations which made it difficult for residents who work multiple jobs to attend, a difficult-to-understand development and consultation process, and a lack of a holistic vision for the proposed developments.
Our application for the incubator program proposed a series of temporary installations in a main pedestrian route. These installations would invite resident feedback on the developments in a more accessible and inclusive manner, and would inform a resident-driven master plan vision for the open spaces of St. James Town. In addition, we proposed for the temporary installations to be housed in a permanent structure, which would be re-purposed for other community programs in the long term. Working on this project strengthened our commitment to addressing issues of gentrification and redevelopment in a collaborative manner with front-line organizations.
- 7 Volunteers
- Application passed the Letter of Intent stage
- View the Finalists for the 2019 Park People Public Space Incubator
Toronto is facing a housing shortage and things are expecting to get worse in the next few years. Guest speakers from Lanescape provided an in-depth discussion on their implementation study of laneway suites and its benefits in an effort to solve Toronto’s shortage in affordable housing crisis.
The Laneway Suite Report addresses the current planning process, laneways precedents from other jurisdictions and provids a set of performance guidelines for laneway suite development. Such form of housing that is gaining popularity in Vancouver is typically built into pre-existing lots, usually in the backyard and opening onto the back lane. OAC Toronto aims to educate the public on this initiative presented in City Hall, in an effort to solve the Toronto housing crisis.
- View the Laneway Suite Report
- The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) grows at a rate of almost 100,000 residents per year
- Toronto has has an estimate 2,400 laneways
Little Free Library
OAC Toronto branched out to the neighbouring City of Buffalo and proposed Little Free Library design concepts to the Buffalo Architecture Foundation, which focuses on low income community needs.
It is estimated that there is only 1 book for every 300 children in low income neighborhoods and up to 61% of these families do not have any books for their kids at home. The Little Free Library movement promotes literacy and education among children and their families.
OAC Toronto’s design proposal for the Little Free Library was inspired by a typical treasure hunt game. As such, the library would not only promote literacy adventure among children, but also reconnect Buffalo citizens with their city, its cultural landmarks, and neighborhoods. Ten libraries were designed, with the intention of each being placed adjacent to city tourist attractions and districts. Education and literacy are strong priorites, and our participation in this movement works towards practical, economical and sustainable solutions to bring more literature into families.
- 5 Volunteers
- 10 Notable Landmark Prototypes
- Honorable Mention
On May 27 2017, OAC Toronto participated in one of Habitat for Humanity’s Adopt-A-Day program at the Pinery Trail site in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
The volunteer team learned how to insulate with fiberglass and vapor barrier materials and participated in construction quality control. It was a great experience and we look forward to adopt another day!
“It was great to see the project finishing up with a community launch. Being a part of something that has a positive impact on our local communities is one of our missions, so we are grateful to have been able to participate in the Adopt-a-Day program.” – Christine Lieu, Education & Event Manager
- 3 Years, 50 Home Projects
- 15 Families Aided in the First Phase Completed
- 48 Contributed Volunteer Hours
Disclaimer: Open Architecture Collaborative Toronto engages in education and advocacy with community organizations to collaboratively address issues around the design of our urban environment. However, we do not provide professional architectural services. If you think you might require the services of a licensed architect in Ontario, please contact the OAA (Ontario Association of Architects).