Toronto-based architects Quadrangle has refurbished a 1898 warehouse in the Liberty Village area of Toronto to create a contemporary mixed-use space with a stronger connection to the surrounding Liberty Village community.
After a century of piecemeal renovations, the exterior was in poor shape, the interior was congested and convoluted, and the warehouse – 60 Atlantic Avenue – risked demolition. The first step for the Canadian practice was to strip the building back, reinforce and restore it. Richard Witt, principal at Quadrangle, says the practice decided any additions would be carried out in materials that contrasted with the original structure.
To this end, grey IBstock bricks imported from England, which differ from the existing buff brickwork in colour, texture and proportions, were used for the reconstruction. Similarly, glazed openings were fitted within a curtain wall system of anodised aluminium rather than sash windows. “[The IBstock] augmented the building’s brick stratum, which through changing materials already told the story of its transformation over a century,” Witt says.
Unifying old and new
Quadrangle added a glass circulation core sectioned by Corten steel fins to the north face of the building to maximise space within it. The former exterior wall forms one side of the structure and is clearly visible through the glass fronting. Witt describes the extension as the overall structure’s unifying element.
“While maintaining a juxtaposition of materials, we’re always referring to the history of the place and the collective memory of the area,” he says. “The perpendicular fins of Corten steel give an aged feel to the addition… while eschewing a specific material correlation.”
The glass front forms a patchwork of opaque, translucent and transparent glazing, which maximises natural light in the primary circulation space and corridors without impinging on occupiers’ privacy.
The building’s floorspace now measures 3,700sq m and the third floor has been given over to studio and office spaces. These have been updated with modern amenities, but retain the high warehouse ceilings, brickwork, wooden beams and supporting structure.
Opening up to the community
Despite having the most frontage on Liberty Street – the namesake of the Liberty Village – there was no direct access from the building to the street. Quadrangle created a large, glazed entrance alongside a punchy, two-storey “60” supergraphic, one of Witt’s favourite features, creating “a strong urban connection, allowing 60 Atlantic to take its rightful place in the centre of the community”.
Site excavations unearthed the basement, which was spruced up to form a new courtyard thereby creating a semi-private space for the community. “[It transforms] the lower level into a bright and open space ideally suited to a lively restaurant with an outdoor beer garden.”
The new entrance leads onto the new lobby and walkway to the lifts while a polished concrete floor allows the walls’ original brickwork to remain the main focus. A full-height map of the Liberty Village area from around the time the warehouse was built reminds the buildings’ tenants and visitors how much the city has changed and continues to evolve.