Toronto's Scott Street Generator: A breathing sculpture in the industrial landscape
Tom Arban

Toronto's Scott Street Generator: A breathing sculpture in the industrial landscape

12 Feb 2024  •  News  •  By Allie Shiell

In Toronto, the Scott Street Generator project by civic design specialists RDH Architects brings an architectural rigour to the city's often neglected infrastructure. Wrapped in a distinct aluminium façade, the emergency power generator is an important piece of the urban fabric and encourages curiosity from the public. 

photo_credit Tom Arban
Tom Arban

Situated at Toronto's westbound Gardiner Expressway off-ramp to Young Street, this new generator tower is adjacent to the historic and now decommissioned Scott Street Interlocking Signal Tower. Built during the 1930s for the CPR, the design by John Wilson Orrock, the Chief Engineer of Buildings, features Italianate round-topped windows, a square tower, and a hipped roof. It is a significant piece of heritage infrastructure and inspires the new generator. 

The architect's approach to designing the new generator began with carefully analyzing heritage architecture to guide and inform the enclosure's scale, footprint, and elevational composition. The resulting scheme is a formal interpretation of the existing tower, with three corresponding datum lines of lightly polished aluminum, subtly opening and closing to allow ventilation and partial views into the shrouded piece of infrastructure architecture. 

photo_credit Tom Arban
Tom Arban

The building is essentially passive, with only ventilation and cooling through the façade panels, which can be opened or closed in direct response to the generator's requirements. Materials were selected for longevity over time, and energy-efficient LEDs were specified throughout. Daylight and occupant sensors reduce the amount of energy used throughout the day. 

photo_credit Tom Arban
Tom Arban

The space between the old and new structure is designed to include a green-planted urban wall. 

photo_credit Tom Arban
Tom Arban

In summary, the Scott Street Generator is a compelling urban object honouring a heritage asset while presenting a contemporary breathing sculpture within the industrial landscape.