The development of Toronto's derelict waterfront is quickly shifting eastward, and Tridel and Hines' Bayside community is currently one of the fastest growing districts in the city. With Aquavista nearing completion, Aquabella now rising out of the ground, Aitken Place Park getting underway, and Aqualuna making its way through the planning process, the community is starting to look more and more like a finished product.

Arguably, the most distinctive of the Bayside developments is Aqualuna, which sports a unique wave-like design from Danish architecture firm 3XN. UrbanToronto had a chance to interview Kim Neilsen, co-founder and principal of 3XN, and Audun Opdal, architect and partner at 3XN, to get some insight into the design and planning of this iconic building.

Rendering of Aqualuna, image courtesy of Tridel and Hines.

UrbanToronto: The massing of Aqualuna varies significantly from what was originally proposed in the Bayside master plan. Early concept renderings of the master plan showed either a single rectangular block or two L-shaped towers. What factors led to the current massing being proposed, and what is the design intent behind the two tower 'peaks' on a shared podium?

Kim Neilsen: Our design is guided by our belief that architecture shapes behaviour. We want to create good homes and be a good neighbour. Therefore, we always consider the commissioning site and the surroundings when we design a building. We want to make sure that our buildings also benefit their urban environment. On the master plan, the site was pictured with a slab building, but we decided to design a building more like a landscape that should relate to its surroundings, and used the volume to create the best possible conditions for the neighbours. We chose to design Aqualuna with two slightly twisted peaks and a shared podium to secure lake views from as many of the units as possible. Twisting the peaks means that the building gets two fronts facing the water. This solution will benefit Aquabella and the other buildings on Merchant’s Wharf who'll get enhanced lake views and an increase in incoming daylight. Furthermore, the design allows more daylight on to the street level of Merchant’s Wharf behind Aqualuna and to the promenade in front of the building.

Rendering of Aqualuna, image courtesy of Tridel and Hines.

UT: What were some of the external site-specific factors/considerations that helped influence your design process?

Audun Opdal: We always design our buildings with consideration for the urban environment they will be part of. Obviously, the functionality of the building and its units are important, but they also need to contribute positively to the surroundings. We wanted to create proximity to the water and realize the potential of the master plan. The fact that the building is open secures enhanced views of the sky from street level. The fact that there is water on two sides means that the building is practically on the water. We wanted to enhance this feature, and this inspired us to do a maritime design to create the feeling of being onboard a ship.

Rendering of Aqualuna, image courtesy of Tridel and Hines.

UT: The curving wave-like balconies offer a unique design that has not been previously seen in Toronto. What was the inspiration for this design and aesthetic?

AO: Most of all, it is a geometrical solution that solves both practical and design related issues. We knew the site and the units, and one of the aims was to secure the best possible views of the lake. We used the geometry of the balconies to optimize the lake-views and the influx of daylight for each unit. The geometry of the balconies allows us not to use balcony dividers, securing unblocked lake-views from the units. The balconies signal the unit sizes and also add a sense of scale. The aesthetics of the balconies give the building a unique identity; create an impression of constant movement bringing life to the area; bring scale into the unit; and add a reference to the water on Lake Ontario.

Rendering of Aqualuna, image courtesy of Tridel and Hines.

UT: The materiality also gives the building a unique appearance. Of particular interest is the double layer of perforated and solid aluminum panels and the aluminum lamella on the balconies. Can you explain a bit more about the chosen materials for the building skin and balcony railing? Why were these materials, installation methods, and colours chosen?

AO: Even though the building has a very dynamic appearance, it is in fact a very controlled modular geometry. All units and balconies and the entire façade are made from prefabricated modules. To enhance the dynamic features of the façade it was important to have a monochrome building. The perforated layer of aluminum is designed to allow air intake for the air conditioning. We really want to avoid visible boxes attached to the façade. We wanted the skin to have a raw texture that would add to the impression of being on a ship, and which also referred to the big ships in the industrial harbour for the sugar refinery. The railings were designed with lamella to create movement in the shape of the building while still securing transparency. We chose lamella rather than glass to add texture and robustness to the look of the building.

Rendering of Aqualuna, image courtesy of Tridel and Hines.

UT: Aqualuna is your fourth project in Toronto, the first being Aquabella next door, so you must be getting quite familiar with the city! Are there any 'lessons learned' from your previous Toronto projects that helped influence the design process for Aqualuna?

KN: The most important lesson we have learned is that the Toronto Authorities have a clear vision for the development of the city. It is unique and inspiring to experience how dedicated the local government is to take care of the urban development for the common good. The Toronto Waterfront Design Review Panel has been very constructive to work with. They have proven a very competent, open-minded and valuable partner that has really required us to carefully argue and demonstrate how the buildings and their qualities will contribute to the city of Toronto. They have challenged our ideas and made us push the limits of our abilities. We believe that has been very beneficial to the projects we have done in Toronto and we value the cooperation with the authorities very highly. At 3XN we believe that architecture forms behaviour, which means that a building needs to be beneficial to its inhabitants and contribute to the betterment of the city. I believe this approach and vision is something we share with the local clients and authorities. 

Rendering of the Bayside community, with Aqualuna in the foreground, image courtesy of Tridel and Hines.

Aqualuna will be Tridel and Hines' fourth building in the Bayside community, and is not too far from materializing. A Site Plan Approval application was filed for the project back in June, and as of last week, it appears that construction crews are now on site doing preparatory work for the shoring. We will keep you updated as Aqualuna and the other Bayside projects progress, but in the meantime, you can join in on the discussion by checking out the associated Forum thread, or by leaving a comment in the space provided on this page.

Related Companies:  3XN, Entuitive, EQ Building Performance Inc., Hines, II BY IV DESIGN, Janet Rosenberg + Studio, Kirkor Architects Planners, Tridel