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November 1, 2011 – Sidney Smith patio spruced up to create better student space

by Jessica Lewis — Tuesday, Nov 01, 2011

November 1, 2011 – Sidney Smith patio spruced up to create better student space

Sidney Smith's east patio gets a makeover. Photo by Diana Tyszko.

November 1, 2011

A makeover of Sidney Smith's east patio features a new canopy structure, plants and outdoor furniture providing much-needed shade and a welcoming space for students to gather.

It all started with a visit by University of Toronto President David Naylor to the adjacent Willcocks Commons. The Commons is the pedestrian-only space on Willcocks Avenue between St. George and Huron streets that includes patio tables and basketball hoops. President Naylor loved what had been done with the Commons and was pleased to see it being embraced so enthusiastically by students but couldn't help noticing that the Sid Smith patio itself needed some work to make it more inviting. This led to a proposal to integrate the patio with the Commons and the President himself stepping forward to contribute to the costs.

A true collaboration emerged as a committee composed of the Arts & Science Students' Union (ASSU) and staff from the Faculty of Arts & Science Office of Infrastructure Planning, U of T Campus Facilities and Planning, Property Management and Grounds began to move from idea to reality. Things really started to come together when visual arts professor Lisa Steele suggested linking the design of the canopy to the bronze sculpture by Walter Yarwood that has been on the front wall of Sidney Smith since 1964. This idea was further developed by her colleague, visual studies professor and artist George Hawken whose work addresses issues of the urban body. "Faced with various options for the canopy, we realized we had moved from the world of architecture to the realm of art," says Adrienne De Francesco, assistant dean and director of Arts and Science Infrastructure Planning.

"When the Willcocks Common went in students immediately took to it," says Gavin Nowlan, former president of ASSU and a member of the planning committee. "We wanted to create a space on the patio that would have the same inviting presence. One of the best features of the new patio is the shade structure. As anyone who has ever sat out on the Sid Smith patio can tell you, it's like an oven in the summer. The new patio will hopefully encourage students, faculty, and staff to linger outside one of the most important buildings on campus."

The furniture was chosen and arranged to create a variety of conversation areas and planters to introduce natural greenery.  "It is a fantastic space, which is what our students deserve," says Meric Gertler, dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science.

An official opening for the new space is planned for later this fall.