WINNER OF A 2016 CANADIAN ARCHITECT AWARD OF MERIT
Liberty Village, one of Toronto’s oldest industrial districts, has become a rapidly intensifying mixed-use neighbourhood. How does one add to the area’s unique building fabric without simply reproducing what is there, or reverting to the contemporary default of a glass curtain wall?
Misfit[Fit], a new boutique office building in Liberty Village, is a compelling answer. The building references the district’s heritage brickwork, while attempting to rekindle Toronto’s faded love affair with precast concrete.
Misfit[Fit] capitalizes on the economy of repetition offered by precast concrete without creating a static pattern of solid and void. A key inspiration was the neighbourhood’s old brick buildings—the way bricks protrude, shift and stack to produce ornament. Similarly, individual edges and profiles are pronounced within the precast façades, whose panels are designed with seeming disregard for adjacent units.
Just two façade panels—divided into six sub-panels and created from reusable moulds—are used to produce the office building’s concrete façades. Each façade reads not as a continuous surface, but as an accumulation of individual objects, revealed by the misalignment between them. Apertures are created through the removal of units, a process divorced from the stacking logic.
Instead of creating a monolithic volume, the design celebrates the imperfect and tenuous characteristics of the misfit, producing new perceptual, formal and spatial effects.
Manon Asselin :: This project’s expression reminds me of that period in the Renaissance when architecture became rusticated, chunky and exaggerated. Although it’s ornate, it is the result of a pragmatic construction logic, creating a depth from its building envelope that is associated traditionally with masonry construction.
Patricia Patkau :: There’s something really original about this project. It’s quite provocative and is smart on many levels by thinking through an old material and making it appear new. The pre-cast façade is interesting because it uses punched openings, but unlike the brick ones in the nearby area. The openings allow the amount of light that you need without letting excessive light in. They also offer a reasonable amount of window to solid. It is environmentally smart in such considerations. This is someone really thinking through the problem—you may or may not like the result (I really like it), but anyone can appreciate the thinking. It will stop people in the street. We haven’t seen this before.
David Sisam :: It is interesting to see this rigorous investigation into the potential of precast concrete to create a robust, highly articulated “thick” wall as an antidote to the pervasive glass curtain wall or thin brick veneer. Discontinuity, repetition and considered adjacencies create a dynamic (if rather heavy) façade. The most convincing aspect of the project is the roofscape, where the sculptural quality of the precast has a wonderful scale and beautifully frames the view of the city beyond.
Client Valari Levin | Planning SvN | Area 32,000 ft2 | Budget Withheld | Status Design development, expected completion 2019