When it comes to condo marketing, UrbanToronto members can be a tough crowd. The Projects and Construction Forum is an archive of our reactions to every condo launch of the last half dozen years, and a scan of it will tell you we’re not afraid to call something out when the packaging doesn’t seem quite right. Not that we have unanimity around here concerning each project, but we have seen it all, and we want names and messages that have a kernel of truth to them. Many millions of dollars in sales, and a score of reputations are on the line with each new project, so it all has to come together and work, or the money doesn’t flow, and the crane doesn’t rise into the sky.

TUX is a recently released 40-storey Great Gulf Homes project at King Street and Blue Jays Way in Toronto’s Entertainment District, with elegant black and white volumes reaching into the sky, and framed with a pinstripe of copper. It’s a case where the message suits the project’s crisp detailing to a T, and makes it the perfect project to probe more deeply. We posed our questions to Sami Kazemi, a senior design architect at Quadrangle Architects, and the project manager on TUX.

Early design sketches showing the process that led to the form of the tower.

At what point in the process does the look/feel/branding take shape? Do you already have massing, density, height? Are the inspiration aspects a skin that will be drawn over a skeleton that has already been worked out?
It’s important to know early on what the constraints are, we start with feasibility studies that focus on massing and program, but this is not isolated from developing a concept. For example, in the case of TUX, because of the site limitations and context, we decided to locate the outdoor amenity at the 7th floor, carving out a portion of the massing for the exterior amenities. This creates the opportunity for a very interesting form, it also aligns with the height of the existing Westinghouse building across the street, it’s these types of synergies between form, function, & context that we try to find early in the design process.

Quadrangle carved out a 30’ high outdoor area, visible from the street and wrapped in reflective copper panels. This space creates a point of interest for the city.

This initial massing started to lead the discussion towards the collective vision and the building form. Designing the skin of the building is a continuation of this process and shouldn’t be done in isolation of everything else.

Where does the inspiration start? What comes first; the branding, or the exterior detail?
You really start everywhere all at once, the design process is not very linear, it is iterative and organic, and at first glance seems messy, especially when you have so many different players and stakeholders involved.

You bring everyone to the table early on; the client, the architects, designers, marketing and branding, eventually a collective vision starts to emerge.  It takes a progressive client to see the value of this type of integrated process, Great Gulf understands that, they identified this vision and made sure everyone is committed to it.

Quadrangle found inspiration from different sources including industrial and fashion design, experimenting with the idea of a colourful interior layer that teasingly reveals itself on the outside.

In the case of TUX the collective vision that started emerging from these meetings was that of a very elegant exterior with a more playful interior that starts to reveal itself to the outside, just like the coloured lining of a crisp black tuxedo, or the red sole of elegant black stilettos. Once that vision started to take form, each consultant was able to work within their distinct discipline, yet still maintain a cohesive feel to the building.

Early study model experimenting with proportion, colour, and texture.

To give you an example of the collaborative nature of our work, during one of our working sessions with the interior designers Figure3, we had sketches showing a coloured reveal that climbs the entire height of the building, we weren’t sure what that material was or even what colour it should be, it could be just a lighting effect, or coloured glass, but as the conversation evolved one of the interior designers brought a book showing the work of Tom Dixon that had a page with nothing else but a copper finish, we placed it next to a charcoal precast sample we had, and we just knew that this is what it needs to be.

Quadrangle collaborated with Figure3 to cohesively integrate Tux’s exterior and interior design.

Great Gulf puts high value on design and they understand that it’s not just skin deep: the old school approach is that branding comes later. At Quadrangle we focus on getting the building to work, the interior designers selects some finishes, and afterwards marketing attaches a name and a few taglines. I believe the public is much savvier then they are given credit, and they can always know when branding is detached from what is really offered.

UrbanToronto has just published a dataBase entry for TUX, linked below, where you can get a thorough overview of project’s details and a better look at all of the renderings. You can leave a note below to register your thoughts on the project, or join the discussion in our Forum thread on TUX, also linked below.

Related Companies:  Ferris + Associates Inc., figure3 Interior Design, Great Gulf, L.A. Inc., Priestly Demolition Inc., Quadrangle, TUCKER HIRISE Construction