Trinity College’s New Building to be Designed by Mecanoo Architecten in Partnership with RDHA

Posted: July 08, 2019

Trinity College has selected Mecanoo Architecten from the Netherlands in partnership with Toronto firm RDH Architects Inc. (RDHA) to design and build the College’s new student residence and academic building.

“We are thrilled to be working with Mecanoo and RDHA on the design and development of our new building. They have a deep understanding of what we aspire to and our core values of excellence, community and sustainability,” said Professor Mayo Moran, Provost and Vice-Chancellor of Trinity College. “We want our campus be an inspiring and welcoming place to learn, live and work. This is an exciting opportunity to complement our beautiful, historic campus.”

The addition of new physical facilities is critical for the student experience at Trinity College. While the student population has grown over the past several decades, the infrastructure has not. The new building will respond to this challenge, providing much needed teaching, learning and common space. Moreover, the addition of urgently needed residence space will mean that more of Trinity College’s current students will be able to enjoy living and learning in a close community – the quintessential college experience that so many alumni cherish.

The design architect for the project is Mecanoo, led by Francine Houben. “A world-renowned architect, Francine is known for her site-specific work, her deep understanding of design and her attentiveness to how people inhabit space. As an advocate for the way architecture can support community and the needs of users, her approach aligns with the College’s ethos,” Provost Moran said.

“We are so pleased to be working with Trinity College to enhance their world-class campus. The new building will embody our shared values of placing people first to create a memorable and inspiring home for all members of the Trinity community,” said Francine Houben, Mecanoo Creative Director/Founding Partner.

The project architect will be RDHA, led by Bob Goyeche. “RDHA is extremely excited with this opportunity to assist Trinity College in the development of this once in a generation project for the College,” said Bob Goyeche, RDHA Managing Partner.

Mecanoo and RDHA are outstanding teams and both have successfully completed many projects relevant to Trinity College. Mecanoo is renowned for its inspirational educational architecture including many important libraries and university projects: Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library; Key Worker Housing at the University of Cambridge; Library of Birmingham; and Erasmus University Student Housing in Rotterdam. Both Mecanoo and RDHA are experienced in blending historic and contemporary architecture: Mecanoo in work such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, DC, and the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building in Boston, which was awarded the 2016 BSA Harleston Parker Medal; and RDHA in the Hamilton Central Library & Farmers’ Market, the U of T Fitzgerald Building Revitalization (where RDHA is currently architect of record), and the Idea Exchange Old Post Office in Cambridge, Ontario, which received the 2019 AZ Award for Best in Architecture: Adaptive Re-Use.

Mecanoo’s architectural approach, which uses an integrated “live, play and work model” in all aspects of their design, resonates with the aspirations of Trinity College. They also strive to complement the aesthetics of existing buildings, and are leaders in integrating landscape architecture, incorporating sustainability into all aspects of the project, and building connectivity.

In selecting an architect, the College conducted a comprehensive two-stage selection process. Rather than a design competition, the College chose a qualifications-based search, focusing on breadth of relevant experience, design excellence, track record of successful collaborations, and the ability to solve the unique spatial, technical and programmatic challenges of Trinity College’s project. The College’s Architect Selection Advisory Committee unanimously chose Mecanoo and RDHA from a pool of excellent firms.

“It was so important to us that our new building be thoughtfully designed from the inside out in order to be as responsive as possible to the complex needs of our community and to our very special site. Now with our architects on board, the College can begin the design process in consultation with the community,” said Chancellor Bill Graham, chair of the Architect Selection Advisory Committee, noting how impressed they were with Mecanoo and RDHA.

“Trinity has always been about the significance of place and how critical it is to building community. Architecture has the power to bring our values to life,” Provost Moran said. “This is an incredibly exciting time as we imagine the evolution of our glorious campus.”

The proposed site for the new building will be centred on the current surface parking lot immediately north of the Gerald Larkin Building at 15 Devonshire Place. This is the first significant new building on the Trinity College campus in nearly 60 years.


Mecanoo Architecten is made up of a highly multidisciplinary staff of creative professionals from 25 countries. The team includes architects, interior designers, urban planners, landscape architects and architectural technicians. Discovering unexpected solutions for the specifics of program and context is the foremost challenge in all of our assignments. Each design is considered in terms of its cultural setting, place and time. As such, Mecanoo treats each project as a unique design statement embedded within its context and orchestrated specifically for the people who use it. Preoccupied not by a focus on form, but on process, consultation, context, urban scale and integrated sustainable design strategies, the practice creates culturally significant buildings with a human touch. Mecanoo’s projects have received over 100 awards, including the Dutch Association of Architects (BNA) 2019 Award for Liveability & Social Cohesion, the 2014 RIBA National Award (UK), and the 2013 Amsterdam Architecture Prize. Francine Houben was awarded the 2018 BNA Kubus Award and the 2015 Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds Prize in recognition of her contribution to architecture.


RDH Architects Inc. (RDHA) is a Toronto-based studio specializing in architecture for the public realm. Founded in 1919, the firm has a wide-ranging body of work encompassing post-secondary education, libraries, recreation, industrial, office, transit and secure facility design. In the past ten years the firm has focused on producing intelligent, concept driven architecture of the highest caliber, and now feels and acts like an emerging design studio, while their 100-year legacy provides a solid backbone of technical and managerial experience. The studio has received over 50 provincial, national and international awards in the last decade – most notably three Governor General’s Medals, the 2014 Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) Young Architect Award for design partner Tyler Sharp, and the 2018 RAIC Architectural Firm Award.


Founded in 1851, Trinity College is a small academic college with a long and illustrious history within the University of Toronto. Trinity College offers an exceptional academic experience and fosters community, responsibility and leadership. The College’s total student enrollment is approximately 2,000, consisting of undergraduate students from the Faculty of Arts & Science at the University of Toronto and approximately 150 graduate students from the Faculty of Divinity at Trinity College. Although the new building will house approximately 350 residence beds, Trinity College’s total student enrollment will not change. For more information about the building process, click here.