No Frills Added: Raw Design

Apr 24 • Architects, TORONTO • 2265 Views • 31 Comments on No Frills Added: Raw Design

By Yuha Scarselli…


RAW Design is a young architecture studio in Toronto. Since its germination in 2007, the firm has become one of Canada’s most dynamic architecture practices. Although young, under the charismatic leadership of its principal, Roland Rom Colthoff, RAW has gathered professional experiences that vary in scale from projects of 10,000 to over 1,000,000 square feet. With over 25 years of architectural experience, Roland leads a family of 24 staff, whose alluring hard work has taken RAW to the fore in the local and the international platforms.


RAW is an abbreviation interpreted as Real Architecture Workshop, or Roland’s Architectural World, or sometimes as literally ‘RAW’. The philosophy of the firm is built on the foundation delivering work to clients that is fresh and RAW in result, an influential factor for the name. The philosophy is a driving factor for the design approach at the company. This translates in simple, direct and honest design, which bleeds into sophistication. The firm’s manifestations brought accolade within two years of its run, with the Ontario Association of Architects’ Best Emerging Practice in 2009. One such high profile projects is the Cube Lofts. Roland was Partner in Charge of the Cube Lofts project when he was at Quadrangle Architects where it was designed. Cube Lofts was one of the first contemporary mid-rise condos in Toronto at a time when the city was searching for a balance between the growing disparities of three storey Victorian town houses and very tall towers.  Cube Lofts thus fills the gap and creates a class altogether in the contemporary scenario of architecture in Toronto.     

Studies of the main streets of Toronto lead to extensive analyses of façade systems and building forms, resulting in the formation of Cube Lofts.  Cube Lofts provides a superior living environment, in a mixed-use format. Sited on a tight plot in a bustling West Toronto neighbourhood of Little Italy, the impression one gets when they see  Cube Lofts is reminiscent of a bunch of cubes with characteristically strong frames. The façade comprises of glass cubes with fibre cement frames, piled together. The form of the building consists of stacked cubical elements that possess density, while adding to the continuous street wall effect. The form is iconic to the neighbourhood, yet perceived at human scale.


Cube Lofts encompasses 21 spacious one and two bedroom units, with each unit corresponding to one cubical element. Some of the units that are of double height allow for variation in the cube sizes, in the façade. Built proportions of each unit, in relation to the amount of light streaming in through the glass ‘box’, repudiate the condo style living yet enunciating ‘living in a box’. The aspect of mixed-use building type is brought forth by providing for retail spaces at the ground level, creating a generic layer of street side activities. This too affects the continuous wall effect by respecting the bustling street.


Sustainability is a key characteristic of Cube Lofts. The design intent involves preserving contextual features like an elm tree preserved within the parking garage. Design components involve large windows and stacker parking. Conscious amalgamation of different uses, into one building enhances the usability quotient of the site. Smart and efficient design tools result in the built form that is seen and experienced, making Cube Lofts a beacon of inspiration for the now trendy mid-rise structures.


 Yuha Scarselli is an architect and interior designer from India, living in Dubai.

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