Dubbeldam Office

A formerly under-utilized building in Toronto’s Corso Italia neighbourhood is transformed into a mixed-use creative hub, reinvigorating the surrounding community.

With the acquisition of a century-old, three-storey brick building in which to house their own studio, Dubbeldam Architecture + Design embarked on a major renovation, providing an opportunity to not only custom design their own workspace but to develop a creative and entrepreneurial community, integrating complementary businesses under the same roof.

Occupying a corner site on St. Clair West at the edge of Corso Italia, the under-utilized building was in decline and disrepair from more than a decade of neglect before the studio began the process of transformation. Dubbeldam’s studio now occupies the top floor of the building, with a coworking space for creative professionals on the second floor, and street front spaces occupied by a marketing agency and an indie coffee shop. The previously tired façade was defined by mismatched bricks and tiny, randomly-located windows was improved with a unified strategy of enlarged openings and a creative paint job. Suggestive of the creative inhabitants working within, the two primary elevations activate the streetscape with bold and playful graphics; painted drop shadows surrounding the windows create a three-dimensional trompe l’oeil effect to passersby. The bold graphic approach continues throughout the project, from the eye-catching signage at the building’s entrance to the expressive and materially rich wayfinding on the interior.

Inside, a Scandinavian-inspired natural material palette is timeless, warm, and textured, comprised of the original exposed brick, maple floors, and Baltic birch slats and millwork. Along with contrasting accents such as the charcoal-grey doors and frames, desks and kitchen millwork, a white Corian waterfall panel greets visitors with an inscribed “hello” at the reception desk. In addition to providing a pin-up surface, sliding eco-felt panels deliver acoustically absorptive benefits, complemented by acoustic ceiling panels and baffles to mitigate sound transmission in the open workspace. The work of local designers and fabricators was incorporated into the project as much as possible: light fixtures, furniture, workstations and textile components were all sourced locally. Collaboration is key to the firm’s working methodology, and much of the office is thus given over to open workstations, along with a breakout space equipped with a large table for collaborative work and discussion. This space doubles as a library of reference books and material samples with shelving wrapping the perimeter and is bathed in natural daylight from the expansive corner window cut out of the north and east façades. Transparency in both directions speaks of a connection with the community, with seemingly limitless views east down St. Clair Avenue.

The building has established itself as a landmark and has become a creative hub and kick-starter of local business and a catalyst for other neighbouring renewal. A prime example of urban revitalization, it has brought a new kind of diversity and vibrancy to the neighbourhood.

  • Architizer A+ Awards
    Popular Choice, Architecture + Renovation
  • Architecture MasterPrize
    Honourable Mention
  • Grands Prix du Design Awards
    Gold Award, Mixed-Use Building
  • International Design Awards
    Silver Award
  • Interior Design Magazine Best of Year Awards
    Winner, Firm’s Own Office

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