At Kirkor, over the years we have moved from the residential single family home projects we did when we were starting out, to major mixed-use, smart-growth developments across the GTA and North America, but here is one residence that is in the works at our offices.
Image of Cliff's new home
When the central Toronto home that my wife Katy and I have lived in for 30 years was unexpectedly destroyed in a neighbour’s fire, it was shocking to say the least. We were devastated. Huge parts suffered severe damage from smoke, water and fire.
The concept of surviving and rebuilding was spontaneous. I’ve long resisted the idea of designing my own house, and here I was given the chance to turn a tragedy into an opportunity. In fact, I ended up designing the house the way we always wanted. For me, it was a statement about myself and what I want at this stage in life. The house is the same size as it was, and will appear lower, since it will have a flat roof. It’s on a corner site, so the exposure is good and it sits somewhat independently from the other houses. Its strength comes from this context. The exposed side yard will be the front door and we have retained Jacqueline VanderVelde of Land Art Design to do a unique landscape, a plan in keeping with the new house design.
Image of old house
With the help of my Kirkor team, led by David Butterworth, I’ve used Indiana Limestone and Ipe wood with mahogany finish and door surrounds. The bronze-tinted windows slightly reflective have dark bronze frames. The interior will be contemporary too, with stained charcoal birch floors, and brushed chrome and glass railings. The kitchen has everything my wife could possibly want, a centre island with the sink looking over our backyard pool area.
It’s two storeys with a flat roof and asymmetrical windows, somewhat in the Bauhaus style. It makes sense to me to design a contemporary home, since I’m doing more contemporary work throughout the practice, rather than rebuild in the traditional style that was there before. We did not want to keep any reminders of that terrible evening of the fire. It’s new and fresh. The theory is to use traditional materials in a contemporary way.
I’m using the same footprint of the old house, 21’ x 50’ using the two remaining standing walls so that we won’t have to go to the committee of adjustment, this has allowed us to fast track the building permit process. We hope to have it finished by the Spring on the Anniversary date of the fire.
I think of it as high style, crisp, clean, elegant but still it’s a modest, 2000 square foot home, totally in scale to my excellent neighbours who have been totally supportive to Katy and I throughout this process.
Like many cities across North America, Toronto has a Percent for Public Art program. This means that every new development must devote one percent of construction costs towards an artwork that may be enjoyed by the public.
A rendering of how the artwork will look at the building’s entrance. Image: Peter Powning
Our project, Cinema Tower, at the corner of Adelaide and Widmer Streets in downtown Toronto is currently under construction and slated for completion in the fall of 2013. We are particularly pleased with the art piece at the entrance of the tower, which is integrated with the architecture while creating a dramatic and one-of-a-kind centre-piece for the building.
A close up on the entrance detail. Image: Peter Powning
The full art piece. Image: Peter Powning
The piece is called STRATA and it’s by award-winning artist Peter Powning, who is based in southern New Brunswick. We worked with Peter on our Chicago project in Mississauga several years ago where he created an unusual, artistic ‘Portal’ out of cast bronze and stone.
Portal, which Mr. Powning completed for our Chicago project, Mississauga in 2009.
STRATA takes as its inspiration a geological, archaeological concept. According to Mr. Powning, “The overall façade is meant to have the feeling of being a large core sample raised up from the earth.” The sculpture will be made of precast pigmented and stained concrete, cast bronze and slumped glass with three layers of what Mr. Powning calls ‘archeological strata’ – a bronze crust inlaid with “materials discovered during the excavation, or appropriate to the history of the site over generations.”
Incidentally, Peter also unveiled his new piece Phantasm in the residential lobby of the TIFF Bell Lightbox, a stunning, intricate grid of slumped glass frames lit from behind with televised images of representative films from the TIFF archives.
A detail of the bronze crust of STRATA. Image: Peter Powning
STRATA isn’t the only art element to the Cinema Tower. Daniels, the developer has worked out an agreement so that the ground floor will be partially owned by the cultural organization ArtScape. This innovative collaboration will be sure to create a lively, mixed-use urban development that will further enhance this buzzing area of Toronto.