Sir Norman Foster completed the University of Toronto’s pharmacy building in 2006 – the British architect’s first in Canada. Given that Foster is the man behind London’s Swiss Re Tower (a.k.a. “the Gherkin”) and Hearst Headquarters in New York, we might have expected something more groundbreaking than this fairly understated glass-encased, box-like structure. But it’s not without exceptional features. A large void in the central lobby cuts through the entire height of the 12-storey skylight-topped building, lending an airy and inviting openness to the interior. Just above ground level, two luminous pods hover overhead like alien orbs. They function as enclosed classrooms, with a study area and faculty lounge on the top. One can’t help but wonder if Foster drew inspiration from the chemical alchemy of pharmaceuticals for this pill-shaped design – considering that the building houses the university’s faculty of pharmacy. The pods are constructed of ribbed cages with six steel arches welded together and mounted via ball-and-socket rods. The rest of the building contains laboratories and offices, with a lecture hall in the basement. But most passersby will notice the pods, visible through the exterior glazing. At night they are lit up with coloured spotlights and look like glowing lanterns.