Architectural building concepts
The architectural design concept for EightyOne Wellesley was to create a series of slim, bundled tower elements that offset and setback as required to respond to the site and the area context.
The design was inspired by its local context, being in a highly urban and dense neighbourhood with many apartment buildings in varying typologies. The design intent was to relate to other circa 1960’s, modernist apartment buildings that are generally white and of simple, rectangular shapes. In this way, the proposal is intended to reflect the existing fabric and to function as an infill building that will complement the neighbourhood architectural language rather than trying to be noticeably different or iconic.
The proposed white precast cladding, clear non-reflective glazing, and a dark mullion colour reflect a palette for EightyOne Wellesley which is simple and elegant. The precast has been designed to wrap each of the tower elements so that they will be framed and read as separate elements.
EightyOne Wellesley is composed of three parts, a podium, a spacer floor and an upper tower.
The podium has been designed as a brick-clad element that will relate well to the masonry buildings immediately adjacent and in general, to the building materials found in the surrounding area. The podium exterior walls will have an open, lattice-type feel, with the balconies behind a brick screen, creating an interesting architectural variation on the typical brick-clad podium. The height of the podium, at six floors and 20.7 meters, was determined to provide an appropriate transition between the two adjacent buildings.
A glazed spacer floor, two floors high (levels seven and eight), has been inserted between the podium and the tower elements. The purpose of this floor is to visually separate the two elements so that they read as different objects from most vantage points. These floors also contain the amenity functions for the building, including interior and exterior amenity spaces.
The amenity spaces occupy a very significant place in the building. They are in the two-storey, fully glazed spacer floor at levels seven and eight, where the building transitions from the podium to the tower element, level seven has the outdoor terrace that wraps around three sides of the amenity space to create the exterior amenity area.
The main lounge area and party room are two storeys high for the entire frontage on Wellesley Street. This will be a very dramatic and dynamic space. In my opinion, the overall amenity area is sufficient for fitness, kitchen, dining, and lounge functions.
An exterior amenity space of 177.5 m² in area is proposed at the rate of 0.5 sm per unit, although this area is lower than the By-Law requirement of 2 sm per unit. In my opinion, this area will still be sufficient for the proposed exterior uses, which will include lounging and dining functions. This elevated location, on the seventh floor, will provide an excellent urban vantage point from which the residents of the building can experience their neighbourhood.
The floorplate was designed to maximize the light and views to the living spaces, while also providing setbacks to minimize overlook to the adjacent properties. The predominant views were arranged to be to the north and south, from the living spaces, with secondary views that are more restricted in glass area to the east and west for the bedroom spaces.
The elevator core and exit stairs, a solid precast vertical element, was located mid-block along the east property line, to minimize the building massing along that side and ensure more light penetration into the site and that diagonal sky views from the existing buildings are preserved.
A notch has been taken out of the west face of EightyOne Wellesley to improve light penetration to the secondary bedrooms and to break down the massing into smaller, vertical tower elements.
The tower floorplate size is only 604 square meters, which for reference purposes is 80 percent of the 750 square meter maximum size that the City of Toronto recommends in its high-rise guidelines. This difference is significant because a smaller tower floorplate area is the single most important factor in the reduction of the impacts associated with a building’s size, height, and massing, including its shadow impacts.
The top of the tower, from level 23 on, is setback an additional two times at levels 27 and the mechanical penthouse level. The mechanical penthouse is also setback by an additional 5.5 meters on each side from both property lines. The effect of these reductions is that the building massing is substantially reduced for the upper floors, minimizing the shadowing and visual impact created by the top of the building.
EightyOne Wellesley is located in a largely apartment dominated neighbourhood, just east of Church Street Village. In keeping with the neighbourhood vernacular, EightyOne Wellesley is a modern interpretation of the 1960’s apartment design. The design is stepped on the north side to avoid shadowing nearby parks it also features a large publicly accessible covered courtyard in front of the building. Two vehicle elevators provide access to the below-grade parking as the site was too small to accommodate traditional car ramps.
The site, located on the Southside of Wellesley Street, east of Church Street, is similar in size to other projects that CORE has successfully developed in the City of Toronto. Similar sites include 500 Wellington Street West (Five Hundred Wellington), 8 Colborne St (The Cosmopolitan Hotel) and 169 John Street (Morrison Lofts).
Those sites noted above, all had similar, relatively narrow street frontages along with a deep lot depth. In each case, the parking and service access was ultimately resolved to address various functionality requirements to the satisfaction of the City Technical Services. The experience gained from working on those sites has been incorporated into this project.
CORE designed the building to ensure there was an appropriate separation between the existing residential condominium entrance (to the west) and the one-way vehicular entrance (to the east). The remaining space at the ground level of the site has been planned for a street related retail space and a publicly accessible forecourt.
The forecourt space of EightyOne Wellesley is set back 7.5 meters from the property line. The forecourt is improved with a third-storey overhang at approx. 7.5 meters high. This assures weather protection and creates a significant and dynamic exterior space that should engage the community and provide an appropriate transition from the public to the private uses of the project. The high quality of the materials proposed for this space, including granite paving slabs, Ipe wood benches, an Ipe wood soffit above, a water feature and up-lit glass walls, will reinforce the significance of this space.
The rear portion of the site, which is adjacent to a series of lanes and ROW’s, is the appropriate place for the provision of the service spaces, including the garbage and loading spaces and the exits for the vehicles and the fire exits. This area has been configured to comply with the requirements of garbage pickup and truck maneuvering.
The direct flow of vehicles through the site, the discrete provision of loading and the clear separation between the public and the private realms, represent good architectural site planning responsive to the site and area context.
The height of the proposed building, at 28 storeys + mechanical is well within the height range of existing and approved developments in the area and the maximum height of 95.7 meters to the roof of the mechanical penthouse has been determined to not create any additional shadowing on Cawthra Square park.
Massing and articulation
EightyOne Wellesley’s massing has been heavily massaged to respond to its local context, including the following:
- Stepping of the upper floors to reduce shadow impact;
- 5-meter setbacks on the east and south sides to mitigate light and privacy concerns;
- A 3-meter upper-level building step back on Wellesley Street as per urban design guidelines,
- A 3.05-meter vertical notch on the west side to allow light into secondary bedroom spaces and that the general form has been arranged in a series of narrow, bundled tubes to break down the massing of what could have been a long, slab-like building.
The thinness of the proposed building, along with its relatively small typical floorplate at 604 m², are the two biggest factors that will reduce the perceived impact of the built form, and help it achieve a scale that is appropriate for the neighbourhood.
The bulk of the building density on the site has been pushed to the rear and south side of the site. This has the effect of reducing the Wellesley Street presence of our building to a 22 storey one with the top six floors setback from that.
The proposed podium at six floors will transition nicely between the adjacent buildings of nine and four storeys. The simple, rectangular forms of the proposed building’s tower portion will relate well to the circa 1960’s apartment buildings in the neighbourhood and the sculptural top six floors of the building will provide a subtle and distinctive profile on the skyline.
Relationship to the public realm
The proposed publicly accessible forecourt along the Wellesley Street frontage, with its 7.5-meter setback and two-storey height, will greatly enhance the public experience for pedestrians at the street level. The curbs and sidewalks will be rebuilt to the current city design standards; two new street trees and bicycle parking for 11 visitors will be added as a public benefit.