Standing in the lobby of Toronto's Division 11 headquarters, Toon Dreessen makes a seemingly simple observation.
"It sure doesn't look like a police station," the vice-president of the Ontario Association of Architects says as he awaits a tour of the building in Carleton Village. "When you think of a police station, you think of a fortress. This is so open and transparent."
Division 11 incorporates a large portion of the 100-year-old exterior of Carleton Village Public School, an iconic structure in the west-end neighbourhood. That blending of old and new is a large part of what earned the project the OAA design excellence award it will receive this weekend at the association's annual conference in Toronto.
"That's one of the things we look for, the connectivity to the community. That there's a consideration for how the building fits in and how it relates to the community as a whole," Mr. Dreessen said.
Architects Michael Moxam and Tom Kyle of Stantec Architecture, the Toronto firm that designed the building, explained that they had to find a balance between the security required in a police station and the "community policing" concept the client was looking for. Their answer: a community-oriented area in the refurbished interior of the original school – the exterior of which was kept largely the same, save for some necessary structural reinforcements.
According to Andrew Pruss of Toronto's E.R.A. Architects, which handled most of the restoration, the police station uses about half of the century-old school building, which sits at the corner of Davenport Road and Osler Street. On the first floor, the older half of the building is home to a community room, which hosts things such as public meetings and open houses. On the second floor, police officers take training lessons in refurbished classrooms.
The newer, "secure" side of the $29-million facility – $9.69-million of which was covered by a federal government grant, the rest by the city – is not short on bells and whistles.
A green roof covering the newly built side of the building – the exterior walls of which are mostly glass – acts as a rooftop patio, while helping to filter rainwater. Four-hundred-foot geothermal wells beneath the parking lot heat and cool the building. And larger, more efficient, office space and interview rooms have made officers' jobs much easier. Constable Joanne Spackman said that at 11 Division's old headquarters, at 209 Mavety St., officers would often end up interviewing victims at a picnic table outside due to lack of space. But that wasn't the only problem with the old station.
"I used to come into work and have to wear boots because we'd have a flood in the CIB [Criminal Investigation Branch]," said Constable Spackman, adding that the old station was generally a dull, unwelcoming "little box" of a building.
In 2009, members of the community were afraid the project would mean the end of the beloved school building. Claude Bergeron, a neighbourhood resident, said that in the project's early stages, police were looking at demolishing the existing structure. But the community fought to save it and the architects got on board almost immediately.
"It quickly became clear that the building was very important to the community," said Mr. Moxam.
He and Mr. Kyle said that throughout the design process architects worked with area residents, who formed a committee to look at preserving the historical building and another to give input on the overall design.
"The historical aspect of the neighbourhood would have been completely wiped out [if the school had been demolished]," said Mr. Bergeron, who was on the committee to look at the historical building. "We're very happy with what they did with the design."