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Kawneer Brings a 12-Story ”Glass Box” to Life at the University of Toronto


The facility that would become the Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, TDCCBR, Canada’s foremost human genome research center, needed to be impressive enough to aid in the recruitment of top scientists, but also respectful of the historic buildings and cityscape that surrounded it. The structure, a fully glazed, 248,378 square-foot facility resembling a glass “box”, married these ideals while also creating an environment that fostered collaboration and interdisciplinary research. The final result is a structure that possesses an indoor-outdoor sensibility, with a soaring glass atrium, lush interior gardens and an overall impression of light and transparency.

Completed in November 2005 with a budget of $86 million (USD), TDCCBR was recently named a winner of the Business Week / Architectural Record “Designed for Success” Award. The project team included architectural firms, architectsAlliance (Toronto) and Behnisch Architekten (Germany, Los Angeles); glazing contractor, Ferguson-Neudorf (Ontario); and design engineers/product manufacturer, Kawneer North America.

Design Highlights

  • Constructed with unitized curtain wall, each elevation of the “box” features a unique design and custom glazing elements, from a double-skinned curtain wall to a spot-colored facade, glazed to mimic the pattern of DNA code.

  • To relate to the scale of the surrounding community, a break in the building’s height was introduced at the seventh floor with a reduced floor plate and enclosed area to house the lower floors’ mechanical functions. The result presents the impression of a belt cinching a waist.

  • Several “bump-outs” from the curtain wall were featured on the west and south elevations. Designed to expand the space and allow for multistory gardens, staircases and conversation areas, these bump-outs required the construction of a custom stick curtain wall, which would be anchored to architecturally exposed steel to handle the large spans in these areas.


Painstaking design engineering was necessary to make the building completely air- and water-tight. Because there were numerous points throughout the structure where the unitized curtain wall would be interrupted, all the design needed to be completed up-front

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architectsAlliance, Toronto, Canada and Behnisch Architekten, Stuttgart, Germany and Los Angeles, CA

Glazing Contractor

Ferguson-Neudorf, Ontario,Canada

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