Multidisciplinary Urban Capstone Design Course

Overview for U of T Students

U of T’s deep urban expertise, across all fields, is tackling the future of cities. The School of Cities is where educators, institutions, practitioners and the public will engage in research, education and outreach to drive forward new city solutions – and a shared prosperity for all citizens.  

The Multidisciplinary Urban Capstone Design (MUCP) course is a unique, full academic year capstone design course offered by the University of Toronto. All projects are sourced from cities, community groups and non-governmental organizations for whom the project addresses a real urban need, and requires a multidisciplinary approach to solve.

Each project is assigned to a team of fourth-year undergraduates drawn from different disciplines. Student teams work through a creative, iterative, and open-ended design process to design solutions to meet client needs. Successfully completing the project requires that students integrate skills and knowledge from across multiple disciplines. 

Why Should You Participate?

The MUCP is designed for exceptional fourth-year students who are looking for a unique, challenging capstone design experience. Students in the MUCP:

  • Apply knowledge, skills and processes from several disciplines to conduct analysis;
  • Demonstrate judgement as they integrate economic, environmental, social, and other pertinent interdisciplinary factors;
  • Incorporate teamwork, project management, and direct stakeholder and client interaction; and 
  • Prove the feasibility of their design concepts through simulation and prototyping.

Deadline to apply is August 16, 2019.

Am I eligible to apply?

You are eligible to apply if you are scheduled to take capstone; MUCP is a substitute course. You can take MUCP in place of your departmental capstone course, or as a fourth-year independent study course. 

Can I source my own project?

All submitted MUCP need an external client. Students can source a project but it will have to be approved by the disciplinary capstone coordinator and the course coordinator. 

What resources/facilities does the university provide for prototyping?

These facilities and resources are posted on the course website once registered in the course.

If my team needs technical support or advice, is there another source of expertise aside from our supervisor and client whom we can approach?

If your team knows a faculty that is an expert, the team can seek advice from that individual directly. Note that the capstone coordinators are subject matter experts by default. They can also help you. 

The client is expected to spend about 1-2 hours per week to support the project from September to March. This support includes timely access to any data essential for completing the project. The specific details and scope of the project are discussed in an initial meeting in September with the student team, faculty supervisor, and appropriate subject matter experts. 

What is the time commitment?

Each student will work 10 hours per week for about 26 weeks. 

Can I form my own team?

While students can form their own team, each team member must apply separately. The departments will select team members that best reflect the needs of the client. 

I am not a student of participating departments – can I still apply for the MUCP?

At this time MUCP is only open to participating faculties/departments Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering; John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design; Department of Geography and Planning; and Rotman Commerce. 

Interested students must submit the application form and email their further application requirements to: capstone.sofc@utoronto.ca

Your application should include:

  • Resumé;
  • Unofficial transcript;
  • Statement of Interest (not to exceed 300 words); this statement should clearly assert your interest in participating in the course. 

Client Proposed Projects 

Background

The City of Brampton is one of Canada’s fastest growing cities. It is uniquely situated along Ontario’s Innovation Super-Corridor between Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo, and includes some of the largest industrial land tracts in the GTHA. With a newly adopted Vision 2040 document, the City is leveraging its rapid growth to create significant opportunities for leading-edge urban development and innovations in city building. Vision 2040 is supported by recently adopted plans across a variety of disciplines and departments, including the Culture Master Plan, Economic Development Master Plan, Environmental Master Plan, Community Energy Reductions and Emissions Plan (in progress), and Active Transportation Master Plan (in progress).

The Bram West lands in Brampton’s southwest corner is identified in Vision 2040 as one of Brampton’s five new Town Centres. The City is currently tasked with re-envisioning this area to reflect new trends and best practices in city building. The area’s current built form – comprised primarily of large warehousing and industrial buildings – does not reflect the vision and goals set out for the employment lands in the area. The Secondary Plan Area 40 identifies the need to maximize quality employment opportunities in Bram West by “attracting office, prestige industrial and research and development uses” and to develop “a predominantly prestige industrial community with an appropriate mix of office uses, business parks, and commercial uses”.

The broader area being considered spans East to West from Mississauga Road to Winston Churchill Boulevard and North to South from Steeles Avenue to Highway 407, constituting Secondary Plan Area 40 in the City’s Official Plan. The intersection of Steeles Avenue and Mississauga Road has been envisioned as a gateway into Brampton from the south. A secondary gateway is envisioned for the intersection of Steeles Avenue and Winston Churchill Boulevard from the west.

For additional context and site details, read www.brampton.ca (PDF).

Project Description 

Brampton seeks to be a national leader in urbanizing suburbia by drawing on its diversity and unique mix of assets. To establish itself as the pulse of ‘The New 905’, the City seeks to develop a vision for a large-scale innovation district that will promote high-skilled employment. The Bram West Secondary Plan goals that support the area’s re-envisioning include developing “an attractive and ordered form of appropriate building heights, massing, setbacks, streetscapes, gateways and architectural treatments” and “the promotion of the highest quality architecture and urban design in both the public and private realm while taking into account the intended functions of the building”. 
 
The vision for such a district should include a strategy to promote high-skilled jobs, complementary urban development, and the attendant amenities, design, sustainability, and financial considerations that will attract and retain high-skilled workers to the area. Already home to global employers like Loblaws, Air Canada, Medtronics, Amazon and Canon, the area is well suited for attracting innovative startup companies, branch offices of established firms, and staging pilot projects. 
 
A substantial portion of this project will require understanding the area’s present employment conditions and future opportunities. This is in addition to the policy and space requirements for innovation districts, including opportunities for developing cultural and technology industries, smart city initiatives, adaptive reuse of buildings, sustainable design guidelines, and financial incentives, among others.

Design Problem

The student Capstone team will be expected to develop an economic development strategy, policy framework, and design guidelines for the Bram West lands. 
 
Doing so will include, but is not limited to, the following considerations: 

1. Site selection, scoping, and building a case for a Brampton innovation district 

2. Understanding the employment mix, policy frameworks, built form, and incentives of existing precedents of innovation districts (e.g. Lindholmen Science Park)

3. Conducting a market analysis of employment uses that support Brampton’s cultural and innovation industries 

4. Identifying opportunities that exist for re-purposing the existing buildings and infrastructure in the Bram West area 

5. Re-envisioning the Bram West area, including:

  • Economic development strategy that includes jobs and employment mix.
  • Secondary area plan for Bram West that includes a land use strategy to address current issue of residential, agricultural, and employment interfacing
  • A balanced transportation system, incorporating roads, public transit, pathways and transportation demand management elements that provide efficient transportation links.  
  • Zoning bylaws that facilitate new employment typologies 
  •  Integration of arts and culture amenities and cultural industries  
  • Triple-bottom line sustainability 
  • 20-minute neighbourhood principles 
  • Municipal incentives to attract and retain innovation firms and talent 

6. Contextualizing the Bram West vision at various scales and timelines.

7. Identifying and anticipating potential issues for planning, jobs, and urban development in the Bram West area.

Background

If you have ever visited Toronto City Hall, it is hard to miss the three-dimensional architectural model of the City of Toronto located just inside the front entrance. The City of Toronto model is a popular tourist attraction and educational piece, viewed without cost by visitors to Toronto City Hall each year. The city model was created in 1989 for the City Planning Division, as a planning tool, using the materials and technologies available at that time. It took 4,000 hours to build was among the first uses of the division's three-dimensional digital model. It seems odd today, but the digital model was printed in 2D and formed a pattern for hand building. Since it was first unveiled, our City of Toronto Architectural Model has attracted more than 100,000 visitors annually. This three-dimensional model of the city core has helped us see our city, test redevelopment options, consider growth and expansion patterns, and imagine the future. Without question, it has served us well. However, over the course of more than 30 years, the model has become out-of-date.

City Planning focussed on developing digital data and delivered a city-wide massing model available on open data several years ago that is regularly updated. The physical model has become a much-loved conversation starter, able to break the barriers of language and unite folks from different perspectives. It has never had a comprehensive engagement program developed and currently is part of the City's tour and education program for students offered by the Clerks division.

Project Description 

This primary focus of this project is identify, craft and innovate new strategies to deliver a program for comprehensive civic engagement at the model and to connected the digital twin. The location of the physical model will continue to be situated at a prime spot for resident, stakeholder, visitor and tourist engagement. Using the new model and future interactive exhibit/activities, we hope to inspire and educate others about sustainable, responsible urban living and be aspirational about city building in Toronto. This model will serve as an opportunity to see city building in action by fostering interdisciplinary engagement.

Design Problem

The student team will craft an educational engagement plan connecting the physical model and digital twin. Ideally the team will consider and make recommendations for partnerships with a diverse group of stakeholders to deliver programming connected to a wide range of on-going activities and urban issues by leveraging the physical location and digital opportunities. It is expected that programming would reflect development review, local studies, growth related change, heritage interests, infrastructure and technology and connect the activities happening in City Hall in real time. Some components of the project that students should consider include creating outreach content to 8/80 demographic with an emphasis on next generation decision makers. The project results should include analysis of technology research that can be driven by handheld connected to existing planning information sources such as Application Information Centre and the Heritage Registry. A big part of the outcome should include opportunities to converge at the model via hosting/participating in events and much more.

Background

The Climate is changing. Many of the observed changes to the climate have been unprecedented when compared to the 1950s. For example, the average annual temperature in Canada has risen 1.5C between 1950 and 2010. Factors including the thermal inertia of oceans, natural feedback mechanisms (e.g., melting of permafrost resulting in the release of methane), and the long lifetimes of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will continue to warm the Earth’s climate throughout the 21st century even if very significant reductions to carbon dioxide (CO2) were made today.

The IPCC has concluded that “Each of the last three decades have been successively warmer at the Earth's surface than any preceding decade since 1850. In the northern hemisphere, 19832012 was likely the warmest 30 year period of the last 1400 years”. Further, the IPCC projects that the probability of more frequent hot days and nights is likely (66-100% certainty) in the early 21st century (2016-2035) and virtually certain (99-100% certainty) in the late 21st century (2081-2100). It also projects that an increase in frequency, intensity, and amount of heavy precipitation is likely in the early 21st century and very likely (90-100% certainty) in the late 21st century. The IPCC concluded in 2014 that climate change has already begun and that it is “severe, pervasive and irreversible”.

Climate science has confirmed that we are facing a future of changed climate. The greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted worldwide in the latter half of the 20th century are long-lived in the atmosphere and have “locked-in” a period of accelerating climate change until at least the middle of the 21st century. Essentially, the global thermostat has been set and locked for 2050; there is very little that society can do to alter these trends.

The Municipality of Clarington has recognized that is must act to adapt to and mitigate climate change. Therefore, council has directed staff to develop the Clarington Climate Action Plan. This plan will identify the risks and opportunities that climate change is presenting to Clarington and propose measures that the municipality should take to respond.

Many municipalities around the word have taken steps to develop plans to respond to climate change. Sustained implementation is a challenge with municipal climate action planning. Many municipalities are not following through on implementation. There are several reasons that this could be occurring: changing political priorities between governments, lack of public knowledge or interest; lack of dedicated funding to implement programming; inflexible bureaucratic barriers.

Project Description 

The Municipality Clarington is developing a Climate Action Plan. In order to be successful it must be implementable.  
 
Research is needed is understand more deeply the challenges that Municipalities face while implementing their climate action plans generally. As every Municipality is unique, more research is also needed to gain a more deep understanding of the challenges that Clarington will face when implementing its Climate Action Plan. 
 
Once the challenges to successful implementation are identified. A set of best practices are needed to inform the creation of an implementation strategy. The findings and best practices will be used by Clarington Staff to develop a Clarington Climate Change Action Plan Implementation Strategy.

Design Problem

Step 1) Research the challenges faced by municipalities who have reached the implementation phase of their Climate Action (adaptation or mitigation) Plans. 
 
Step 2) Research existent practices that have been used by municipalities to successfully implement Climate Change Action Plans. 
 
Step 4) Identify the greatest challenges and opportunities that Clarington may face while implementing it’ Climate Action Plan.  
 
Step 3) Develop a set of best practices that municipalities can follow to ensure long-terms success in implementing Climate Action Plans. This will include a suite of creative (unique) solutions to the most common challenges that municipalities face.  
 
The findings and best practices guidance document produced in this capstone course will be used by Clarington Staff to develop a Clarington Climate Change Action Plan Implementation Strategy.

Background

School Boards are partners with the City and schools are essential community facilities that provide a number of benefits and services to the community.

Boards face many challenges in designing outdoor space in Toronto schools. Issues such as parking, garbage, bicycle parking, access, drop-off and the Toronto Green Standard, and how they affect landscaping design and long-term maintenance costs, are key determinants in high quality schoolyard design.

Boards face serious budgetary issues and constraints when undertaking school landscaping. Through this course project, the Boards and the City are looking for opportunities to improve the process and methods used in designing and maintaining landscaping on publicly funded school sites in the City of Toronto.

Project Description 

The notion that schoolyards be designed to maximize the amount of landscaped open space, have landscaped open space maintained properly over time, and make a contribution to the community as a source of municipal pride, is central to this proposal. 
 
Through this multi-disciplinary project, students would: 

  • Engage with city divisions, school boards, community groups, eco and environmental clubs in schools, and others in order to identify school yards that are both good and bad examples of landscaping, design and maintenance. 
  • Subject to Board approval, develop innovate ways of engaging the local community in a small selection of chosen schools (4-8 schools), including workshops, where students, parents, staff and local residents could identify issues, challenges, opportunities and constraints for the outdoor space and maintenance at these selected schools. 
  • Provide a framework for Schoolyard Landscaping, Design and Maintenance that would be appropriate for use in all publicly funded schools in Toronto.

Design Problem

In this urban multidisciplinary design project, the client expects the team to: 

  • Determine key considerations in designing school yards with respect to programming, and how this is reflected in outdoor space. 
  • Engage the local community in a small selection of schools.   Students, parents, staff and local residents could identify issues, challenges, opportunities and constraints for the outdoor space at these selected schools. The course students would identify support mechanisms to improve maintenance. Further, they would work with the Eco School programs and Environmental clubs, and the community to evaluate, provide design improvements, and develop approaches to maintain these schools' outdoor space. 
  • In so doing, the student group will provide design concepts, working models and guidelines going forward for "Excellence in Schoolyard Landscape and Design".