At the recent groundbreaking ceremony for One Bloor East condos by Great Gulf Homes, UrbanToronto had the chance to sit down with David Pontarini of Hariri Pontarini Architects to talk about the building's design. 

David Pontarini and interviewer Dumitru Onceanu backstage at the One Bloor groundbreaking. Image by Craig White.

Tell us about your inspiration for this design. We haven't seen anything like this in Toronto. The architecture is quite different from other buildings of similar height and massing. 

Inspiration is a difficult thing to pin down in fact. I think that it comes from a number of different sources. Eventually you process it, and it comes out in a way that hopefully creates something of interest and value. We looked at everything that was going on in high rise development. We looked at Aqua [Chicago]. We looked at Absolute World. We looked at Foster's work, and what everyone was doing around the world.  We did a scan of it all and then pulled back and said 'what do we want this thing to look like in terms of sculpture and form', and we just started modelling it. We modelled it in 3D and created a rectangular form that just started to twist and shift on the outside. We always wanted to keep the inside line of the units pure, so we weren't playing around too much with the economic model that makes this buildings viable. By that we mean the rectangular floor plate and how the units get layed out. We didn't want to create a completely twisted form like Absolute World where the units begin to compromise at the expense of the actual form of the building. You have to find a happy medium between the two, and I think that this is what this building does. It's trying to take the idea of sculpting out balconies that give the articulation, and when you get down to the podium that's where we really started to play with the lines. 

One Bloor condos podium from the North East. Rendering courtesy of Great Gulf Homes

Describe the podium to us. What was the reasoning behind some of the lines and the setbacks, and how does it interact with the street?

We actually designed the tower before we designed the podium. For the longest time we had a tower sitting on top of a rectangular box. Once we had the position of the tower, we started to just carve away and articulate the lines of the Yonge Street facade which we wanted to pull back more at the intersection so that we could open up the corner.  We also wanted to keep the height of the podium higher at the South end, and we pulled back and terraced it at the North end. On Bloor Street, instead of terracing the podium we just sculpted it because Bloor is more of a canyon, and we wanted to keep the canyon form but articulate the edge. On Yonge Street, we wanted to step it down to the scale of a 3 storey building at the retail base. 

One Bloor condos podium from Yonge & Bloor. Rendering courtesy of Great Gulf Homes

One Bloor condos podium from Yonge Street. Rendering courtesy of Great Gulf Homes

What experience do you want pedestrians to have at street level as they interact with the building? 

I think it's certainly more of a visual thing where you see a sculptural form that you will not see anywhere else in the city. Aqua was pretty incredible that way. When you walk up to it you think 'wow, what is that', and this is going to have the same kind of effect because the shaping of the balconies gives us a more sculptural feel that you would not normally associate with a tall building in the city.  

Tell us about the recent additions of the 5 floors. How will that affect the sweeping 'piano curves' design of the balconies?

We just had to stretch the form, redesign the balcony curve, and insert the floors. We did it the same way as the first design. We created the form, had the height, and we just sliced it. That was how we got the line of the balconies, some of which will shorten and some will lengthen to adapt to the new form. You will just see it as a 70 storey building as opposed to a 65. 

One Bloor looking upwards from Yonge Street. Rendering courtesy of Great Gulf Homes

Can you tell us about some of the evening lighting plans. Will the mechanical floors be lit? 

The top is like a lantern with transparent glass that picks up the lines of the balconies. That will be illuminated, and we're just starting to look at how we're going to integrate lighting down the curtain wall facade as well. 

'Down the curtain wall'. You're talking about just the centre portions? 

Probably just down the edge where the balconies meet the curtain wall, but we're just starting to explore all that stuff. It's still early in the process.

One Bloor condos lantern lighting from the North East. Rendering courtesy of Great Gulf Homes

Will you have a combined curtain wall/window wall system depending on where the balconies are positioned?

It's curtain wall with a hybrid window wall system, not your standard window wall that you see on a lot of buildings - the light stick-frame - it's a different look. It's probably going to be closer to the look of Clear Spirit at the Distillery District. The glass that's going in on the inside balcony line is similar to what we're doing.

Nearly a capless mullion system? 

That's right. I'm not sure about our mullion, and our cap details aren't quite resolved yet. I'm not saying it's going to be that colour of glass [at Clear Spirit]. I'm saying in terms of technology, it's more of that than it is the standard window wall that you see. 

For the balcony glazing, are we expecting fritted glass? 

Yes, that's right. It will have a pin system that you won't really see.

One Bloor condos balcony view. Rendering courtesy of Great Gulf Homes

Thanks so much for sitting down with us!

Come back tomorrow as UrbanToronto features Michael McGrath of builder Tucker Hi-Rise, construction managers for One Bloor. 

Related Companies:  Andrea Kantelberg Design, Baker Real Estate Inc., Cecconi Simone, DeepRoot Green Infrastructure, First Capital Realty, Great Gulf, Hariri Pontarini Architects, Isotherm Engineering Ltd., Jablonsky, Ast and Partners, Janet Rosenberg + Studio, Ketchum, Kramer Design Associates Limited, L.A. Inc., PRO-BEL, TUCKER HIRISE Construction