BCE Place
Toronto, Canada
1987 - 1992

Photos courtesy Santiago Calatrava archives


For the BCE Place competition Santiago Calatrava went beyond the brief and proposed a full-blown architectural solution.

The ordering element is a towering gallery, with a roof over Heritage Square, that runs the full length of the broad passage and penetrates the block from east to west.  This intervention gives form and meaning to spaces that otherwise would have become isolated by a general lack of co-ordination.

Unlike the traditional glazed and vaulted arcades of 19th century Europe, with their purpose-built interior facades, the gallery has been conceived as a free-standing element between existing buildings; a space defining function that imposes a new point of orientation.  Escalators, aligned along the main galleryšs central axis, lead to Torontošs subterranean, central pedestrian network.  Calatravašs original scheme included an entrance from Garden Court and Front Street with access beneath a mechanized, closing roof.

Along each side of the main linear passage, inwardly inclined dendritic supports branch out in a single plane to create a colonnade, which supports the imposing parabolic vaults that rhythmically span the space.
The tight vaults, made of welded steel, resemble the timber structures that Calatrava used for the barrel roof of Wohlen High School Hall.

The continuous roof structure gives sequential direction to the 130 meters long, 14 meters wide and 27 meters high arcade. The arcade connects Heritage Square, the Canada Trust Tower lobby, the relocated classicist Clarkson Gordon Building, Garden Court and Bay Street.  The five-story gallery structure also continues out into the streetscape, where it establishes a presence for BCE Place diagonally opposite Mies van der Rohešs Toronto Dominion Center. 

The transition from Galleria to Heritage Square is marked by two large, rotating glass panels. These ŗwings˛, which substitute for the more intricate folding mechanism originally proposed, are set into the upper, intermediate space of the existing arch structure.  The arch is one of a series of masonry-clad concrete facade frames that define the regular plan of the square (30 x 30 meters).

Another dendritic structure supports the glazed translucent roof of 9 intersecting barrel vaults. The centerpiece of the covered square, also designed by Calatrava, is a circular fountain of steel tubes, which opens like a flower.

Client: Brookfield Development Corporation, Toronto.