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Ontario Court of Justice

Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

March 2023


Renzo Piano (Architect, Founder), Amaury Greig (Architect, Associate, Director of Operations)



Infrastructure Ontario (contact : Ron Ofer)


Scott Norsworthy


The 72000m2 Ontario Court of Justice project is a major civic facility in the heart of Toronto’s judicial precinct. The architects developed the architectural design in response to the client’s objectives to promote a dignified, open, transparent, and modern facility that is inclusive and meets the highest standards of accessibility.

Surrounded by historically significant landmarks, the courthouse seeks to simultaneously unify the diverse buildings of the judicial precinct and present a certain deference to the historically significant landmarks nearby. Through a careful attention to massing, alignments, materials, details, and the orientation of public space, the courthouse strives to resolve the haphazard urban context and distinguish itself from both the City Hall building as well as nearby commercial projects. The building is intentionally compact to complete a coherent skyline and is significantly lower than the maximum allowable building height.

To ensure a meaningful and dignified public piazza the lower-level functions are pushed as far north as possible, and the entry pavilion is integrated into the main volume thereby liberating over 4000m2 of freely accessible public space. The four lower levels contain the high-volume public services as well as a 20m tall atrium on the East side opening back towards city through a highly transparent tension cable façade system.

Above, the tower contains the majority of the 73 judicial hearing rooms comprising 63 courtrooms (including dedicated drug, mental health, Gladue, and youth courts). The tower façade is articulated through a layering of glass and hydroformed steel panels at times revealed.


The Ontario Court of Justice project is a major civic facility located in the city’s central civic precinct and complements a series of three judicial buildings dating back to the early 19th Century.

The courthouse is immediately to the northwest of the Toronto City Hall, a heritage listed building designed by Viljo Revell completed in 1965, and an iconic landmark that integrates a major public square.

To the south of the courthouse there are two existing justice facilities, the Superior Court of Justice, and Osgoode Hall a Canadian National Historic Site. The latter, designed by the Architects John Ewart and William Baldwin, was completed in 1832 with the objective of having the East portico terminate York Street.

The Ministry of the Attorney General, undertook the Ontario Court of Justice project with the objective of modernizing both image and operations while rendering more accessible the administration of justice. The project brings together under one roof most of Toronto’s Ontario Court of Justice criminal court operations from across the city and is the largest courthouse project in Ontario.

Historically the site is located in the area formerly known as the Ward that housed a largely immigrant and working class population. Characterized by a granular urban form of small buildings, the courthouse site also played host to the British Methodist Episcopal Church that played an active role in the underground railroad as well as a synagogue. Archaeological studies uncovered artefacts from the pre-contact era to the rich social history from the modern era.


The tower façade is designed as a unitized curtain wall on a 1.5m grid that alternates between vision glass (40%) and highly insulated shadow box spandrel panels (60%). The depth of the façade and the embossed steel panels create a highly dynamic façade that responds to the ever-changing environmental conditions. From a performance point of view, the façade is highly efficient thanks to the relatively high proportion of insulated shadow box area. The vision glass panels are full height (3.6m on a typical floor) and this ceiling height is maintained in office areas that would typically be lower, providing ample natural light. The top of the building is designed as the 5th façade. Void of mechanical equipment, the roof hosts over 3000m2 of photovoltaic panels providing energy to the building. Mandated to meet LEED Silver, the project achieved LEED Gold.

In response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and the resulting 94 calls to action, the project strives to incorporate features, functions, and commemorative elements that promote reconciliation between Canadians and Indigenous Peoples. As well as the Gladue courtrooms that are designed to incorporate community and elders in the administration of justice, the courthouse also includes an indigenous learning center adjacent to the main atrium that is programmed to create bridges of understanding and knowledge between indigenous Peoples and the institution. The round space hosts meetings, presentations, conferences, and exhibitions while also being able to host traditional ceremonies that involve smudging.

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