ACE Hotel recently opened its first Canadian outpost in Toronto’s King West. It sits at the meeting of Camden and Brant streets, a quiet intersection across from St Andrew’s Playground Park. Designed by Toronto’s Shim-Sutcliffe Architects, the new building has a restrained exterior with a rich interior experience.
At 14 storeys, the structure fits neatly into its surroundings, flanked by similarly tall residential buildings. The Fashion District neighbourhood hosts former garment warehouses of brick and beam, many now associated with arts and culture venues. The building is clad in reddish-blue clay brick-embedded precast concrete panels, The brick, which looks handmade, is mainly laid in stack bond, with pattern changes at the reveals. Between the brick piers on the north and the park-facing west elevation are strips of deep-set, dark-tinted glazing and spandrel glass. The variation in depth provides additional visual interest, as does the insertion of vertical precast louvers in a terracotta finish. Curves are introduced just above the building’s entrance at the northwest corner: a deep, trapezoidal-shaped wood-clad soffit draws visitors in, under an undulating profile that echoes the curvilinear concrete inside…
The lobby is the visual showpiece of the design. Flooded with daylight, its voluminous size speaks to high-end brands that typically resonate exclusivity and remoteness, yet the large panel windows onto the street and intimate interior gives a boutique feel. A series of concrete trapezoidal arches define the main space. They are edged in steel and terminate in an oversized industrial steel ‘knuckle’ – evoking bridge supports. The bar area is seemingly suspended by slender steel rods from those huge concrete supports.
Generous west-facing windows look out onto the community park frequented by locals and families, connecting the hotel experience to the neighbourhood. Inside, views through and across the interior provide glimpses from the lobby to event spaces on the second level.
The materials palette serves up texture and warmth: raw concrete walls, wood slat wainscoting topped with a deep shelf, and an end grain Douglas fir floor — like Butcher block — that flows throughout, punctuated by graphic area rugs. The bar features sage green stacked tiles and a countertop with rounded wood edges. Low-slung chairs and sofas mingle with coffee tables; a more intimate space to the side — equally suited for dining and working — is lined with banquette seating with cocktail tables, a communal table, and a DJ booth tucked into a corner. The transition between day and night, weekdays and weekends, is seamless.
Shim-Sutcliffe, long known for their refined private homes and commitment to craft and detail, have designed their first hotel, one of their few publicly accessible works. The architects’ interiors bring a custom, high-end residential feel to the ACE — welcoming to both those who visit and work here. Casual and comfortable, it complements the hip brand’s easy-going (not stiff-upper lip) vibe — think suites outfitted with turntables, quilts, and wooden hangers labelled with affirmation: “You look good in that.”
Nothing has been left to chance. The architects and their interior design partners have thoughtfully considered the details through the architecture, fixtures, and furnishings. Custom is everywhere: in the handrails, signage, and speakers integrated into the perimeter millwork, in the lighting, from kite-inspired pendants to copper sconces embedded into concrete. The interior design features an ambitious art program, with curated works by dozens of Canadian artists, including a wall-to-wall plywood installation by Howard Sutcliffe.
Stairs descend to the sunken wood-fired oven restaurant where the concrete arches touch down. Lit from windows above, it boasts a triple-height and single-height space and a similarly warm palette — with laid-in brick flooring and vintage-inspired table settings — but a darker and moodier atmosphere. Geared up for business, ‘Alder’ officially opens this week.
At night, a warm, fiery glow lights the wood soffit above the building entry and illuminates the suite windows above. Ace Hotel’s lobby bar comes alive as the crowd spills out to street. The building is intended as a civic space with the lobby not the exclusive domain of resident guests. The building seems to have immediately blended into its context, as if it’s always been there.
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