Pavilion On The Lake: Boulevard Club West Wing Replacement, Toronto, Ontario
When you walk into the main lobby of the Boulevard Club, you are immediately surrounded by its history. Dark wood. Trophies. Old photos. It’s everything that you would expect from a social and athletic club that’s more than a century old.
It’s difficult to imagine the expansion to this building delivered by an architect with more respect for its history. As Martin Baron, partner at Teeple Architects, walks me through the club, he speaks with reverence about the various phases of the building’s design. There’s the original clubhouse, a mid-century wing with an iconic zigzag roof, a timber-lined addition from the early 2000s by Ian MacDonald Architecture. And now, Teeple’s West Wing: the highly anticipated replacement of an old, barn-like, seasonal structure that housed badminton courts. The club’s history and architecture reads like a perfectly constructed story. Its traditional origins are still central to the plot, but walking into the West Wing feels like a fresh new chapter. “Each phase is very much a reflection of its time,” says Baron.
It’s also difficult to imagine designing for a more constrained site. Located along Lakeshore Boulevard, the new West Wing is tucked amongst tennis courts on the north and west sides, an existing building on the east side, and Lake Ontario immediately south. Because of the lake and tennis court exposures, there’s nothing about the building that’s hidden from view. Striking angles evoke an origami swan—if the paper were replaced by white aluminum standing seam installed on a T-clip system. “That system minimizes cold bridging, and makes the effective R-value really close to the nominal value,” says Baron. Openings in the envelope are minimized, with judiciously located windows to the north and the south. During the day, these reveals appear almost solid. At night, the interior LED lighting provides glimpses of a crisp, welcoming atmosphere—a magnetic sight for the Parkdale community to the north, and a beacon for anyone out on the lake to the south.
Tania Bortolotto, FRAIC, an architect and Boulevard Club member who sat on various committees related to the expansion, describes the massing as one of the most challenging pieces of the project. “The building program essentially requires three large, boxy containers,” explains Bortolotto. “Teeple was very successful at breaking down the massing and creating a cohesive, elegant sculptural mass.”
Two of these three containers—the locker rooms on the ground floor and the badminton courts on the second floor—had to be completely closed off from the outside. From the beginning, Teeple faced the task of creating connections between these isolated areas in order to avoid making them read as boxes—all in the spirit of designing an open, 21st-century building that would be welcoming to families.
To accomplish this, the badminton courts, which had previously run east to west, were turned 90 degrees. This new configuration allows for the inclusion of two additional courts, with a slight overhang on the south side. V-shaped supports beneath this overhang frame (rather than impede) ground floor views. Everything in the badminton courts—from the height and structure of the roof, to the colour of the courts and surrounding walls—complies with regulations set forth by the Badminton Association of England.
The rotation of the badminton courts also allowed for the addition of a gym on the second floor. Since the gym had to be acoustically separated from the courts on the west, the design team seized the opportunity to bathe the room in natural light from the east. Using Solera— an insulated, light-diffusing glass system—daylight is captured and dispersed across the gymnasium.
One would think the locker rooms on the ground floor would be the easiest piece of this jigsaw puzzle, but the intensity of designing for a membership-based club was evident here. One of the most debated decisions during the lengthy design process was the colour of the lockers. “I completely understand it,” Baron says. “There’s a real sense of ownership there—each member has their locker that they’ve paid for. Why shouldn’t it be the colour they want it to be?” Following many collaborative sessions, the final result is a spa-like white-and-maple colour scheme across five separate locker rooms.
After resolving these three containers, Martin and his team focussed on details which would make a critical difference to members. Durable, high-quality materials were chosen. Floor-to-ceiling windows along the perimeter of the ground floor were introduced to reinforce connections between the lake and social areas. A light well captures daylight from a sun-soaked second-floor seating area overlooking the water, sending the light directly into an otherwise closed-off ground-floor sports clinic. Each detail was suggested and confirmed through an iterative design process. “The club was highly involved and demanding, and the Teeple team was professional, thorough and responsive from the beginning right through to the end,” Bortolotto recalls.
Ultimately, the building’s exterior is its most striking feature—and the only aspect that most people will ever see. In keeping with the tradition of white pavilions on Toronto’s waterfront, the building creates formal and informal connections to the lake and the sky. “We started to play around with how to achieve an exterior which conceals the look of the badminton court’s barn-like roofline,” Baron says. “We ended up with this swooping motion, which starts at the same level as the adjacent building, and then just takes off.” At the east side of the building, a square corner juts out from the wing-like form. This is the edge of the gymnasium—a move that skillfully maximizes space through what Baron describes as “the dormer window trick.”
The grey terracotta applied to the north and south façades elegantly adds depth and breaks up the solid white aluminum. The grey inset on the north side is reminiscent of the blade of a rower’s oar catching in the water; the south side inset recalls an image of the same rower’s powerful extension and release.
Striking a balance between form and function, Teeple’s design artfully ushers in a new era for the Boulevard Club—creating an open, light-filled waterfront landmark, and a totem for the future.