Month: August 2016

IBI Group talks Architecture with Yonge + St. Clair

This past week, the Yonge + St. Clair Blog visited the offices of IBI Group at 55 St. Clair West to speak with Architect David Hastings about his firm, architecture, the Yonge + St. Clair community, and his favorite lunch spot. David has been practicing architecture in Ontario for over 30 years and oversees the firm’s architecture and interior design practice for the Greater Toronto Area. He is a recipient of the Governor General’s Medal for Architecture in Canada.

What sets IBI Group apart from other architectural firms?

We’re more than architects. IBI stands for “Intelligence, Buildings, and Infrastructure.” We bring a multi-disciplinary approach to everything we do, from architecture to city planning. This is an approach that began right at the outset. When the firm was founded in 1974, we already had four domains of practice: Urban Development, Architecture, Land, and Transportation.

Of course, over time, we have only built upon and added to those domains. What started as two offices in Toronto and Vancouver has grown into 63 offices all around the world. The IBI Group is now the fourth largest architecture firm in the world.

How is life as an architect at IBI?

As an architect at IBI, I’ve always found it fascinating to be involved with projects that I wouldn’t get close to in a traditional architectural practice sometimes I’m doing transportation and sometimes I’m doing systems planning. I also think that this opportunity allows me to be a better architect, because it gives me a much broader perspective. Each element is a piece in a much larger framework.

55-St-Clair-W---Reception1-compressorWhat is your architecture design philosophy?

I always look for context in anything we build. Stand alone architecture as a sort of trophy is questionable to me.

I’m always pushing our architects to broaden their horizons and think about the context in which they’re designing and building. Elements of urban planning, transit, landscape architecture, the local culture, and much more have to be considered.

It should never be architecture for architecture’s sake. It’s a balance between respecting the local context and also creating something that advances the building of a community.

 What has been your favourite project to work on over your career?

Up until a few years ago I had never worked on a healthcare project. Then and I was fortunate to be involved in the repurposing of the Sherbourne Health Centre that now serves many marginalized groups in the area (Sherbourne and Carlton). This project was a result of the Wellesley hospital shutting down. A lot of their clientele got either siphoned off to St. Michaels, or was left homeless, both literally and figuratively.

It was really meaningful to provide architectural and design services to an effort that was providing that kind of support for the community. Trying to make an environment that is conducive to healing and quality living has been very rewarding.

IBI has over 150 LEED accredited professionals on its roster, and with projects like Women’s College Hospital and Delta Toronto being LEED Certified, sustainability is an important element in IBI’s work. What is your attitude towards LEED and sustainable design?

The LEED accreditation has been monumentally important in changing people’s attitudes towards sustainability as both a philosophy and technology. At IBI, we use the term ‘biophilic design’ which has to do with going through and thinking about the biology of what it is we’re building and how we fit into that ecosystem. LEED is big part of sustainable design and is a major philosophy attitude in my work.

 What drew IBI to establish their Toronto Global Office at Yonge + St. Clair?

Before we moved into 55 St. Clair 2 years ago, we had made ourselves homeless by selling our building downtown. It took us well over a year to find the right building in the right area. A big thing was finding a place with big floor plates that wasn’t really possible downtown, and after looking at over 30 locations this building really stood out for us.

What is it about 55 St. Clair West that stuck out?

Were sitting in a building that was built in 1982 – technologically the building is 1982. But it has very forward-thinking attributes. The physical layout of the building, the access to natural light, the big floor plates, and the indoor/outdoor terraces surrounding our space are all very current in design thinking today.

The view isn’t bad either [laughs].

The view south from IBI's office.
The view south from IBI’s office.

 What are your thoughts of Yonge + St. Clair?

Yonge + St. Clair has been a neighbourhood in transition and that’s very interesting to us as professionals. We have witnessed firsthand its evolution and have been able to compare it to our old neighbourhood downtown.

When I lived here, a long time ago [laughs], the retail was a lot of highend shops and the restaurants were very boring. But then the shops left and the area became a little seedy. There have been some ups and downs over the decades.

Now, with all of the investment being made in the area, its ripe for a new generation to come in and make their mark on the food, culture and retail scene.

Speaking of food, what’s your favourite lunch spot?

I really like the Italian places along Yonge Street. There are a few of them down there and they’re all good. What Yonge + St. Clair really needs is a good greasy spoon.

There’s always Holy Chuck Burger.

 Oh really? I’ll have to check it out.

[Laughs] It’s good and greasy! Thanks David.

 My pleasure.


Yonge + St. Clair’s Northeast Corner Reborn

Slate Asset Management is in a unique position of owning all four corners of the Yonge + St. Clair intersection. This is an unprecedented opportunity to bring a coordinated, holistic approach to transforming a major city intersection. Reimagining the various facades that frame the intersection is a natural starting point, the first of which is already well underway.

The current hoarding at 2 St. Clair East.

Hoarding currently surrounds the intersection’s northeast corner. Soon the hoarding will break away to unveil a brand new facade and streetscape. As it stands, 2 St. Clair East is a fifteen-storey commercial office building with two levels of retail and a connection to the St. Clair subway station. The Property shares the area’s only enclosed retail space with the neighbouring property, the Weston Centre. The building was originally constructed in 1976.

Below is a rendering of the future look of the building, with an updated exterior facade imagined by architectural firm Gensler. The sparkling new design will house an expanded and fully renovated TD Bank branch on the main level, and a new Rexall will be located on the concourse level. Greenhouse Juice Co. and Starbucks will be serving drinks at street level, and some old favourites will be returning with new looks downstairs. Slate also redesigned the public corridors to improve navigation and streamline TTC access and modernized the building’s elevators (so people can move up and down as well as sideways). When speaking with Bisnow, Slate Managing Director, Lucas Manuel, said he views this property as “the gateway to the neighbourhood, so it’s important to start [improvement] there.”


Completion of the new 2 St. Clair East is slated for December 2016.

Intelligent Design

Y+S_TWITTER_ProfilePicSomehow in the last 20 years, Yonge + St. Clair became a bit of a desert. It became a shell of its former self. The who’s who didn’t leave, but they stopped playing here. The tower cluster remains, reminding us that Toronto knew that transit-oriented development was well before it became a buzzword – but the energy is gone. It went to Yonge & Bloor and Yonge & Eglinton, as well as to other parts of the city. But Slate Asset Management hopes to change  this. Over the last few years they have acquired many of the towers in the area and have already begun to make some much needed investments.

One of those investments is a new brand and identity for the neighbourhood. They hired Toronto’s blackjet Inc. to imagine what this might be and how it could respond to the rich history and character of the neighbourhood.

The Yonge + St. Clair Blog spoke to Art Director Cameron Ward of blackjet about the new look.

Can you tell me a little about where the design came from?

The design came out of a single idea. Yonge and St. Clair is, in the simplest terms, an intersection. It’s where these 2 iconic streets meet. But at the same time, we wanted to embed the eclectic vibe of the area into this simplicity. There’s a lot of character and history in those 4 corners. Our design is a testament to that.

We also wanted to convey confidence. In our minds Yonge and St. Clair – what it was, what it is now, and what it’s becoming – is a confident neighbourhood.

And there’s an architectural relevance too. Our client owns 8 buildings at the intersection so the revitalization will obviously come through in the built form. Gensler [Architecture Firm] and IBI [Group] are already working away. The renderings look great. The designs are really clean and timeless. Like the branding. Hopefully.

It’s very bright.

[Laughing] Yeah they’re actually neon pantones. The colours were chosen to juxtapose the black and white photography we’re using in a few executions. And they definitely pop against the greys of the environment. These aren’t colours that occur often in the city. They’re confident colours.

You mentioned Gensler Architecture Firm. They’re working on the exterior of 1 St. Clair East and the exterior and lobby of 2 St. Clair East. IBI Group has already completed the new lobby of 2 St. Clair West. How do you see the branding living in these spaces?

I actually have a background in architecture so I know how important the details are. These projects are thoroughly designed from top to bottom so we need to be strategic in the way we incorporate the branding. It can’t be something we plaster all over the place, it has to be subtle.

An objective of any branding is to create cohesion. In this case it’s a little difficult because we’re not just looking to make street banners look like transit posters. We’re making sure 8 office towers have some of the same DNA. And we need to maintain the integrity of the architects’ designs. So it’s going to come through in the details. It would be easy to toss big plus signs on the walls and call it a day, but that’s not our approach.  And it wouldn’t look very good.

The branding will be present but it won’t be obvious. You might need to keep an eye out for it. We’re still working on some elements. I can’t say much more but it’s going to be really cool.



[Laughing] It’s going to be good. I’ll leave it at that.

Thanks Cam.