Inspirational Architect Will Alsop passes away

President Sara Diamond standing next to Will Alsop
Monday, May 14, 2018

Will Alsop, the British architect, visual artist and academic who designed OCAD University’s iconic Sharp Centre for Design, died on Saturday May 12, 2018 at the age of 70 after a brief illness. Will Alsop’s buildings, most recently Finch West and Pioneer Village subway station, are renowned for visual clarity, playfulness and a mix of sculptural and painterly detail. Marcos Rosello, director of aLL Design, which Alsop set up in 2011, shared the following, “Will has inspired generations and impacted many lives through his work. It is a comfort to know that due to the nature of Will’s work and character, he will continue to inspire and bring great joy… His design ethos, essentially to ‘make life better’, is evident in the architecture of his buildings and their surrounding communities. We will miss him greatly.”  OCAD U can concur. Alsop understood the transformative impact that the Sharp Centre would have for OCAD University, worked closely with both the university and local community and delivered a building that continues to act as both brand and beacon for our school. The Sharp Centre has been credited with kicking off architectural creativity in Toronto, according to Nick Patch of the Toronto Star, “Perhaps some amount of credit is due to Alsop’s checkerboard in the sky, which with playful irreverence, set a bar for risk-taking architecture in the city just ahead of a transformative boom in reimagining Toronto’s cultural icons”. Alsop stayed close to OCAD U, acting as Adjunct Professor and occasional sessional instructor and connecting with the OCAD U community when in Toronto.

By 2000, when he began design of the Sharp Centre, Will Alsop and was elected to the Royal Academy, won the Sterling award and two RIBA awards, and was appointed OBE (Order of the British Empire). In the last decades his work has been focused on large international commissions (in particular in China) as well as residential housing and TTC stations in Toronto. Will Alsop sat on the architectural advisory boards for Wandsworth and Kensington & Chelsea Councils. He was Professor of Architecture at TU Vienna, Professor of Architecture at Canterbury School of Architecture, UCA and in 2018, received the degree of Honorary Doctor of Design (HonDDes) from the University of Greenwich, in recognition of his achievements.

Reed more about the renowned architect in The Guardian.

Rosalie and Isadore Sharp donate $1 Million to OCAD University

Thursday, December 15, 2016 - 5:00am

Benefactors Rosalie and Isadore Sharp, founders of the famed Four Seasons Hotel chain, have pledged an additional $1 million to OCAD University, Canada’s largest art, design and digital media university.

The latest Sharp donation follows the pledge of the previous commitment of $3 million, in 2014, to support the enhancement of the façade of the Rosalie Sharp Pavilion.

The Rosalie Sharp Pavilion, a separate building at the corner of McCaul and Dundas Streets, will house the OCAD University Experiential Learning Centre, a student-focused centre dedicated to studio-based learning across the university’s program areas, partnerships with community and industry, and training in professional and business skills.

Phased renovations are well underway at OCAD University’s Experiential Learning Centre, part of the Creative City Campus. The building currently serves as student thesis space before the full renovation is completed.

“We are very grateful to Rosalie and Isadore Sharp for supporting our strong tradition of experiential learning that takes place both in the studio and in the community,” says Dr. Sara Diamond, President and Vice-Chancellor of OCAD University. “This flexible, multi-use student complex will provide dedicated, maker-based work areas, as well as spaces for collaboration and engagement with visiting artists and designers.”

The Sharps also donated $5 million in 2004 towards building the internationally acclaimed Sharp Centre for Design, designed by famed British architect Will Alsop. The building has been lauded by architect and arts critics alike and is one of the must-see stops for visitors to Toronto.

“We are inspired by the creation of a centre that will be a hub for student activity and experimentation, and we have great respect for President Sara Diamond’s dedication and imagination,” says Rosalie Sharp.  “With this donation, we are helping mark the Dundas Street gateway to OCAD University’s campus and Toronto’s heart of creativity and innovation.”  Since 1998, Rosalie and Isadore Sharp have donated more than $9.5 million to OCAD U.



Yellow Staircase Project 2008 Launch

daniela pettinato 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008 - 3:00pm to 5:00pm

The Yellow Staircase Project, a student initiative with full administrative support, launched officially in September 2007. Join us to celebrate one year later as we launch the project for 2008. Students (individually or small groups) are welcome to submit proposals for original artwork in the staircase. Free the yellow staircase of its yellowness and replace it with colourful paintings and murals! The medium is paint but students from all disciplines are encourged to get involved.

Come out and pick up a copy of the submission guidelines and deadlines.

Venue & Address: 
Lobby 100 McCaul Street, Toronto, Ontario

Will Alsop: OCAD, An Urban Manifesto

Friday, June 13, 2008 - 4:00am to Sunday, October 5, 2008 - 4:00am

This exhibition explores the creative design process behind the Ontario College of Art & Design’s startling new building, the Sharp Centre for Design, in Toronto.

Venue & Address: 
The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA), Octagonal Gallery 1920, rue Baile, Montreal, Ontario

Yellow Staircase Project Reception

yellow staircase
Thursday, January 17, 2008 - 9:30pm to 11:30pm

The Yellow Staircase Project, a student initiative with full administrative support, launched officially last September. To free the Yellow Staircase of its yellowness--and replace it annually with colourful paintings and murals--students were asked to submit proposals.

Now that the commissioned student works are complete, it's time to celebrate with the artists!

Refreshments will be served.



Venue & Address: 
Room 187, Level 1 100 McCaul Street, Toronto, Ontario

Update 100 McCaul St. - Classes resume as of 3 p.m.

Monday, October 5, 2015 - 4:00am

The gas leak in the parking lot has been resolved. 100 McCaul and the Sharp Centre will reopen at 1 p.m. and classes throughout all buildings of the campus will resume as of 3 p.m.

Sharp Centre 10th anniversary celebrated with $5 million gifts

Rendering of Centre for Experiential Learning at 115 McCaul St. Bortolotto Architects.
Sara Diamond with benefactors Rosalie sharp and Kiki Delaney
Thursday, November 27, 2014 - 2:15pm

Benefactors Rosalie and Isadore Sharp, founders of the famed Four Seasons Hotel chain, pledged $3 million to OCAD University, Canada’s largest art, design and digital media university at an event marking a decade since the opening of the iconic structure bearing their name.

The Sharp donation will be used to create a dramatic new façade on the Rosalie Sharp Pavilion at McCaul and Dundas Streets and to transform the building into the OCAD University Centre for Experiential Learning. This student-focused centre is dedicated to studio-based learning across the university’s program areas, partnerships with community and industry, and training in professional and business skills. Bortolotto Architects have been selected to transform the Rosalie Sharp Pavilion into a striking landmark that will anchor the schools’ cultural corridor leading along McCaul St. 

A second gift of $2 million from OCAD University Chancellor Kiki Delaney on behalf of the Delaney Family Foundation was also announced. The donation will fund scholarships for undergraduate and graduate visual artists. It will also support the university’s Indigenous Visual Culture program - its curriculum, Research Centre, outreach and campus-wide activities as well as the Delaney Chair in Indigenous Visual Culture.

“Our generous donors are changing the landscape of the cultural corridor anchored by OCAD University. They are supporting our strong tradition of studio-based education and new ways of learning through experiential education. They are allowing us to nurture the tremendous creative talent in the indigenous community. This creates opportunities for students, faculty, our many partners, and the public.  We are greatly indebted to them,” said Dr. Sara Diamond, President and Vice-Chancellor of OCAD University.

The new Sharp donation “builds on the bold look of the Sharp Centre by creating an innovative gateway that will become widely admired. It will be an embodiment of the imagination at work at OCAD University,” said Diamond.

The Sharps donated $5 million in 2004 towards building the internationally acclaimed Sharp Centre for Design, designed by famed British architect Will Alsop who was on hand for the celebration. The building has been lauded by architect and arts critics alike and is one of the must-see stops for visitors to Toronto. It has played a transformative role in OCAD University’s transition to a university.

“We funded the creation of the Sharp Centre for Design at a time when the institution was literally and figuratively being lifted to a new level,” said Rosalie Sharp. “With this donation, we are helping build another artistic landmark that solidifies OCAD U’s place as a hub of innovation in Toronto.”

“As the Chancellor of OCAD University, I have seen the new opportunities created in our indigenous program, Faculty of Art and graduate studies. Our family looks for ways to help students and these two areas provide great opportunities,” said Delaney, who is president of Delaney Capital Management.

Images top right: Rendering of Rosalie Sharp Pavillion redevelopment by Bortolotto Architects
President Sara Diamond with benefactors Rosalie Sharp and Kiki Delaney

Embed Video: 

OCAD U introduces 24-hour access test period: November 26 to December 12

Wednesday, November 26, 2014 - 5:00am

We are pleased to announce that effective tonight, November 26 and until Friday, December 12, we are introducing 24-hour access to 100 McCaul (including the Sharp Centre for Design.) Please note the following:

  • Access is for current OCAD University students only (remember to bring your OCAD U ID) 
  • Access is to areas that are normally open during extended hours and do not require supervision by staff or a technician. This means there is no change to the hours of Shops and Studios (please consult the web for the up-to-date hours.) 
  • You may experience some interruptions in IT services as we do perform maintenance overnight. Some desktops computers are set to automatically power down and/or clear drives so we recommend not using those to avoid losing work. 
  • We will have Security circulating the building. Please report any safety concerns to the front desk.

This is a trial period. We will respond to questions and concerns as they arise and monitor usage in order to determine access hours for the end of next semester. Your feedback is welcome – please direct it to

We'd like to thank the OCAD Student Union, who have worked with us on this issue for some time, and to the team who put together the Long Night Against Procrastination, who helped demonstrate the need for 24/7 study space and to the many staff and particularly the Security team, for making this test period possible.

Dr. Sara Diamond, President and Deanne Fisher, Associate Vice-President, Students 

OCAD U celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Sharp Centre for Design

The Sharp Centre for Design

OCAD U’s iconic Sharp Centre for Design, turns 10 this fall. The stunning, black and white “tabletop” structure, which was completed in 2004, stands above OCAD U’s main campus building on 12 multi-coloured steel legs. It’s named after benefactors Rosalie and Isadore Sharp and is home to OCADU’s Faculty of Design, with facilities for the Faculties of Art and Liberal Studies.

The award-winning facility was designed by acclaimed British architect Will Alsop in partnership with Toronto-based Robbie/Young + Wright Architects Inc., along with structural engineers from Caruthers & Wallace Ltd. And MCW Consultants Ltd.

View the Sharp Centre Flickr gallery 

Quotes in celebration of the Sharp Centre for Design:

“Will Alsop’s checkerboard-box-on-crayon-coloured stilts…helped Toronto usher in a new era of bold landmark architecture.” Design Lines

One of the “five most influential buildings” in Toronto. Christopher Hume, architecture critic

“Audacious and delightfully strange.” Azure Magazine

“The Sharp Centre is interesting because it literally hovers above the Main Building at 100 McCaul supported by long, colourful steel legs over a small parkette — making that park a great place to be during a rain storm, with the Sharp Centre acting like a giant umbrella.” Spacing Magazine 

“Its colourful exterior and surprising floating form lend it a vibrant intensity that stands in stark contrast to the surrounding environment.” The Canadian Centre for Architecture 

“The Sharp Centre celebrates both the collision of the old and new, and their institutional symbiosis.” The Globe and Mail 

“I had no idea I was going to do a box on legs, flying at that sort of height, but that’s what happened.”Will Alsop interviewed on Global News 

“Colour is refreshing. It aerates the city.” Will Alsop, quoted on 


Celebrate The Sharp Centre for Design with OCAD U

Will Alsop in conversation with Christopher Hume

Attend the Sharp Centre for Design Anniversary Exhibition 

Will Alsop in Conversation with Christopher Hume: The Sharp Centre for Design & Beyond

Photograph of Will Alsop
Wednesday, November 26, 2014 - 12:00am to 1:30am

Live: Will Alsop in Conversation

Join us for this public lecture celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Sharp Centre for Design!

It's been called "audacious and delightfully strange." 10 years later, the iconic Sharp Centre for Design continues to make a bold statement.

Famed British architect Will Alsop addresses his experience of designing and building the Sharp Centre for Design at OCAD U, and how this has informed his work over the last ten years. Moderated by Christopher Hume, Toronto Star architecture critic.

Seating is limited. Please register today to reserve your spot!

Check-in opens at 6:00 p.m.
Please arrive by 6:45 p.m. or your seat will be released.

Venue & Address: 
OCAD University 100 McCaul Street Auditorium, Room 190