Press Releases 02.05.2021

Perkins&Will Unveils New Health Education Tower in Toronto, Serving as a Model for Campus Design in a Dense Urban Context

Award-winning Daphne Cockwell Health Sciences Complex at Toronto Metropolitan University embraces vertical campus typology, integrating academic departments, residences, labs, and administrative offices

Faced with a growing student body and confined urban site, Toronto Metropolitan University engaged global architecture and design firm Perkins&Will to create a new hub of academic excellence and student life. The 28-storey Daphne Cockwell Health Sciences Complex, a winner of the 2021 Best Tall Building Award by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), is located in Toronto’s dense downtown core, connecting students to the vibrancy of the city while unifying Toronto Metropolitan’s academic and residential functions.


Located on the eastern edge of Toronto Metropolitan’s campus—just around the corner from Canada’s busiest intersection, Yonge and Dundas—the nearly 300,000-square-foot building was completed as part of Toronto Metropolitan’s 2008 campus master plan to guide its expansion through new development and renovations. The master plan is symbolic of Toronto Metropolitan’s role in shaping the future of the city, which includes creating vibrant public spaces, contributing landmark design and fostering urban resilience.

“Daphne Cockwell Health Sciences Complex demonstrates Toronto Metropolitan University’s position as active city-builders. We found a wonderful fit with Toronto Metropolitan where our teams were both incredibly motivated to work alongside communities and stakeholder groups to create a state-of-the-art living and learning space. It was critical that we introduce a building that not only connects to, but also enhances the fabric of the surrounding downtown neighbourhood,” says Andrew Frontini, design director of Perkins&Will’s Toronto and Ottawa studios. “This type of consolidated yet integrated design is a vibrant and viable solution for urban campuses of the future.”

Vertical campus creates unique typology

Recognizing the need for an integrated approach that celebrates density, student life, community, and learning, Perkins&Will’s Toronto and Vancouver studios conceived a vertical campus typology—the first of its kind for Toronto Metropolitan University. Opened in August 2019, the Complex has become a new gateway into the campus from the east side.

Clad in white aluminum panels and accented with vibrant orange, the striking façade is a bold addition to Toronto’s dynamic skyline. Adapting Toronto’s prevalent podium-tower model, the building’s volumes have been lifted to create an active streetscape and continuous public spaces from the ground level to the roof, encouraging students to engage and collaborate with one another.

Intentional in its composition, the façade reflects Perkins&Will’s unique approach—orange threads visually represent the public spaces that are woven throughout the building, putting its activities on display.

“Uniquely expressing public space throughout the building, the Daphne Cockwell Health Sciences Complex creates new connections to the adjacent campus at the ground floor and illustrates student life in a vertical axis. This expression reinforces the concept of a vertical campus, successfully integrating the academic and social lives of Toronto Metropolitan students."

Ryan Bragg, principal at Perkins&Will’s Vancouver studio

Interdisciplinary design to foster community-based learning

Integrating four academic departments within the first eight storeys—the Schools of Nursing, Midwifery, Nutrition, and Occupational and Public Health—the programs are supported by a variety of new classrooms, teaching kitchens, and labs to enhance students’ learning experience.

The building also features a state-of-the-art Digital Fabrication lab, visible from the public realm, along with flexible research facilities and university administration offices. Rising above 18 storeys, residence dorms house up to 330 students, further enriching campus life.

At pedestrian level, the public atrium becomes an important contribution to the city. With a café and spaces to socialize and study, the atrium animates Church Street and creates new porosity with connections that link the city to the heart of the campus. Large windows invite natural light, creating seamless indoor-outdoor connections.

The campus is primarily focused on inclusivity, community, and well-being both academically and architecturally. Accessibility throughout the building is seamless, ensuring all students and users can enjoy the Complex’s connections, public realm, and architecture.

A toolkit for health and sustainability

Beyond traditional pedagogies, the Complex is a place for students to learn, collaborate, and innovate. It is outfitted with machine-learning systems and sustainable technologies, such as a green roof that acts as an urban farm to provide fresh produce to the ground-floor cafe and a greywater system for faucets, toilets, and showers.

When designing the Complex, Perkins&Will referenced its Precautionary List, an extensive database of hazardous and harmful materials, ensuring the Complex was created with materials known for being safe and having a low environmental impact. Designed to achieve LEED Gold Certification, it is expected to use 32% less energy and consume 35% less potable water than traditional construction.

Another unique feature is a metering and monitoring system where the residence students in residences can view their energy and water consumption online. The programme also assists the University’s research program Living Laboratory aimed at developing smart and ongoing solutions for operations based on user-driven research.


“The most ambitious example of sustainable design at Toronto Metropolitan, the Complex is intended to be a catalyst for continually improving performance. We designed this project to be a great project not just at the opening, but to be an on-going resource for Toronto Metropolitan’s researchers to study. The lessons learned from this building will make the next generation of buildings better,” says Max Richter, senior associate at Perkins&Will’s Vancouver studio.

“We believe the building will introduce a new culture of informed accountability on campus. Daphne Cockwell Health Sciences Complex is a place where there is continuous 24-hour learning, encouraging environmental, physical and financial sustainability as well as knowledge-sharing among students and faculty. The Complex is an unprecedentedly healthy and transparent building that will inspire institutions across Canada,” adds Frontini.