May 29, 2012
by Canadian Architect
On May 22, the YWCA Toronto hosted an official opening ceremony and open house for the YWCA Elm Centre. Located in the heart of downtown Toronto, this innovative residential community was designed by regionalArchitects, in joint venture with Hilditch Architect.
The purpose-built Centre occupies a city block bound by Elm, Elizabeth, Edward and Chestnut Streets that was previously the site of the 1848 House of Industry – an early benevolent institution. Together with the original House of Industry, three new residential towers provide permanent affordable housing to a diverse community, including low-income women, women with mental health and addiction issues, women fleeing violence, individuals of Aboriginal ancestry, and single mothers.
The 300-unit building is composed of three distinctive, stepped elements clad in clear and patterned glass, masonry and granite. Each element corresponds to a distinct programmatic element and has its own distinct street address. The YWCA program includes offices, boardrooms, multipurpose/meeting rooms, a restaurant and retail store. The complex also provides offices, a meeting hall and an Economic Development Centre for Wigwamen Inc., a First Nations support organization, and administrative space for the Jean Tweed Centre, which supports women struggling with addiction.
The building features numerous sustainable features including two green roofs, a heat recovery system, in-slab radiant heating, and the largest geothermal well field ever installed by a Canadian not-for-profit. The internal courtyard provides a shared space for all residents and traces the path of Taddle Creek, which once flowed through the site.
According to Paul Kulig, Principal of regionalArchitects: ”This challenging project sets a new standard for sustainability in affordable housing.” Focusing on public housing, public spaces and sustainable design, regionalArchitects draws on the experience of over 70 architects, designers, planners and technologists. This team supports a broad scope of practice, from academic and institutional buildings to large-scale residential and mixed-use developments across Ontario, Canada and around the world. rA works closely with affiliated firms planningAlliance and rePlan.
Founded in 1977 as John van Nostrand Associates, the firm was re-established as regionalArchitects in 2008. John van Nostrand, the firm’s principal, is an architect and planner with more than 30 years’ experience in Canada and abroad. He was formerly a principal of van Nostrand DiCastri Architects (1993-1999) and more recently architectsAlliance (1999-2008).
In 2004 John was awarded the prestigious Jane Jacobs Award for Ideas That Matter for his contribution to and advancement of social housing and urbanism. John’s experience is complemented by two young and talented partners, Paul Kulig and Drew Sinclair, each of whom brings over a dozen years’ expertise in market and social housing and the design of public space.
Headquartered in Toronto, regionalArchitects has offices in Edmonton (Canada), Accra (Ghana), London (UK) and Quito (Ecuador).
For more information, please visit www.regionalArchitects.com
YWCA elm centre in toronto. photo by terrence tourangeau.