A couple of interesting bits from this article for those who may not be able to access it:
First, some elegant prose meets archi-porn:
"The other day I walked into this bar, pushed through the oak revolving doors, and entered the Ace Hotel Toronto. I climbed across finished-grain Douglas fir floors, ran my fingers across the top of a porcelain strip, and sat with a friend under a finished ceiling of Venetian stucco. The morning sun was pouring in through the oak-framed windows in front of me. I asked for a coffee."
Then, what I think are the truly important bits, how a developer and an architectural firm worked together, hand-in-hand, solving problems, 'value-engineering' of a sort, at times, yet, did so with extraordinary care than can be seen in the finished product:
"Ms. Shim stated that the relationship with Ace was “simpatico”. But she also notes that her company was involved in every aspect of the design. This is unusual. Boutique design firms like Shim-Sutcliffe generally hand their work over to colleagues, the “architects,” who solve the endless problems that come with building."
"Not here. Shim-Sutcliffe has produced thousands of drawings and watched them though. “Usually when you hire an architecture firm, you don’t have access to their managers,” says Rob Cooper of Alterra, one of the hotel’s co-owners. “Here, when we needed to solve something, Howard would show up in an hour with a notebook.”"
"This commitment has allowed Shim-Sutcliffe to innovate within commercial constraints. For example, with a brick building veneer. “We, of course, wanted to use handcrafted bricks,” Mr. Sutcliffe said. But this proved to be very costly; Instead, the facades are slabs of precast concrete with a thin layer of brick. This is a popular technique that usually looks like a bad imitation of a brick wall.
Mr. Sutcliffe chose to accentuate the segmented nature of the panels, leaving gaps, or “revealing” between them, sculpting the face pattern into synchronized shape and curves. It doesn’t quite look like a brick wall – but it does look great."
This is exactly how architecture should be practiced and development done. Not every development can afford the most expensive material, but talented people with passion and patience can make a somewhat lower cost material look just as good (or almost); we needn't reduce new buildings to the lowest common denominator to make a profit.
I'll just stick this image from @AlbertC
's post above, here, so people can see what's being discussed in terms of the brick (veneer) wall: