By Phil Roberts…
Leading by example when it comes to universal design, Toronto-based Quadrangle does more than create spaces, they create scenarios. The 120 person studio works with a strategic and brand conscious attitude, while combining expertise in content media, interiors, hospitality, multi-unit residential, retail, sustainability and universal design.
Though one of the top 250 largest practices in the world, Quadrangle shuns working in departmental silos, but embraces organic teamwork and knowledge sharing between their mix of professionals and specialists. They provide effective solutions for everything from barrier free interiors to the level of community and city building.
In Toronto, city building tends to mean building higher. 130 Bloor Condominiums in lavish Yorkville was built as a residential cap to an existing 1960’s 12-story modernist office tower. The structure of the office building was surgically renovated, for a new structure to be built on top. The condominium consists of 7 floors of 15 luxury condos units, all constructed without disrupting the functionality of the offices, reinventing the building into a distinct mixed-use building.
Adaptive reuse is one of Quadrangle’s many strengths, capable at not only reinventing a space, but bringing life to it and its surroundings. 299 Queen Street, the address of the iconic CHUM-City Building in downtown Toronto, exemplifies the work of Quadrangle. In 1987, one year after Quadrangle’s founding, the practice embarked on an 8-year exterior restoration and interior renovation of the old publishing building, into one of Canada’s premiere broadcast media centres.
The client, Moses Znaimer, had a vision to create an interactive broadcast centre unmatched by any in the world at the time. The 299 Queen Street Broadcast Centre became the first TV facility that didn’t have studios, because the idea was that the entire building was a studio. With the ability for media personalities to go on air anywhere in the building was groundbreaking to the broadcast industry of the late 1980’s. Newscasts and celebrity interviews could occur anywhere in the building, or even on the sidewalk. The public could interact with stars through sliding, storefront windows and have their say on the speaker’s corner.
On the exterior, the terra cotta façade was restored to it’s original glory by water pressure washing and remedial work on problem areas. The overall result is a building that made a statement, in numerous ways. Its gleaming façade and colourful lighting scheme, with the CN Tower blocks away in the background, expressing the changing identity of media and Toronto itself.
Not only did Quadrangle succeed in delivering a landmark building for the CHUM brand, but the project was the catalyst that spurred Queen Street West’s evolution from a derelict thoroughfare of boarded up businesses to what is today a vibrant street of bars and retail boutiques.
The 299 Queen Street Broadcast Centre helped to establish Quadrangle as one of the top firms for media companies looking to reposition their brand in the marketplace. An argument could be made that Quadrangle helped to create a social media, years before such a thing existed. Over time, content media became one of Quadrangle’s specialities, and their comprehension of the technical requirements of broadcast media and entertainment is undeniable.
When Corus Entertainment wanted to consolidate its 50-plus media properties into one building on Toronto’s lakefront, the media giant came to Quadrangle. Partnering with Eventscape, the Toronto-based custom architectural fabricator, Quadrangle created an exciting, playful space, which expresses constant motion for the creative professionals of the Corus brand.
The common denominator of Quadrangle’s projects is their attention to universal design. Every project pushes beyond the code for what is expected to be accessible. That all access approach to design begins in their own office, which is a laboratory for inclusive design. For Quadrangle, it’s the commingling of human interactions that determine a successful project, regardless of physical ability or status. Creating a more transparent and inclusive world which surpasses the one we already live in. A world where brands, end users and the public, share moments.
Phil Roberts is the creative director of sixty7 Architecture Road.