StairSpace / Department of Unusual Certainties

StairSpace / Department of Unusual Certainties
Courtesy Department of Unusual Certainties

Department of Unusual Certainties is a Toronto-based research and design collective working at the interstices of urban design, planning, public art, spatial research and mapping have shared with us their contribution to the John Street Ideas Competition, held by the Toronto Entertainment District BIA, entitled StairSpace. The competition called for a new public space concept as the center point of what has been dubbed a major cultural axis in the Toronto – John Street. More details of DoUC’s submission after the break.

The current space is bland and oppressive, wedged beside the monolithic cartoonishness of an aggressively post-modern Metro Hall. The space is large but feels small, needlessly cluttered and obstructed by two follies and a raised concrete planter.


Our proposal StairSpace is a three-dimensional park that addresses the dense nature of its location by maximizing its program through vertical extrusion. Its structure is derived from the theater uses directly adjacent to it, playfully intermingling the relationship between audience and stage, by inserting several stages into a staircase structure – after all in the public life of the street the spectator is also the spectacle. In the summer movies are projected onto the facade of the Princess of Wales Theater and seats can be heated to allow for such events in the early spring and late fall. During TIFF, StairSpace becomes a platform for viewing celebrities and during the rest of the year, it serves as an iconic meeting place for concert-goers, workers, and tourists alike.


All the original uses of the space are re-mixed to allow for more diversity and dynamics. Metro Hall parking garage exits are housed under the structure as well as bike shed parking. An arcade runs under the structure on the south end and connects John Street to Metro Hall’s King Street entrance. The arcade also includes an elevator access point. The pre-existing garden is extruded and placed on the StairSpace stages.


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Cite: Hank Jarz. "StairSpace / Department of Unusual Certainties" 26 Nov 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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