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October 30, 2012
Commercial designers figure3 score big hit on first residential project
Making less seem more has scored figure3 an Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario 2012 award of merit on their first foray into residential design.
The project in question is Concord Adex’s Spectra and Quartz condominium towers in the sprawling CityPlace development in downtown Toronto on the former railway lands.
Similar in design — in that they are “point” towers as opposed to the more common “slab” format in Toronto — they also pose a challenge to maximize space in the smaller units of 443 square feet. The largest unit is also compact at 1,032 sq. ft.
Suzanne Bettencourt, principal of the figure3, said the developer wanted to take a fresh look at how the interior space could be configured and that’s what they set out to do.
The developer’s desire wasn’t totally altruistic or design driven; in a saturated market, product differentiation is key to sales.
Indeed, the CityPlace development is packed with product, the two projects of Spectra and Quartz between them having 400 units on 39 floors and 470 units on 41 floors with prices ranging from $200,000 to $600,000. They’re part of an 18-hectare development which will hold 18,000 people in 10,000 units over 25 buildings when complete in 2018.
“Our experience is mostly in workplaces, commercial and retail,” Bettencourt said.
“This was our first residential project. To get started we threw out all the conventional thinking.”
They also looked at how people live in and use small residential spaces around the world, especially Asia.
One of the biggest influences — if only because it was so extreme — was a YouTube video about a Hong Kong architect who transformed a 344 sq. ft. condo into 24 rooms using an elaborate system of sliding walls and drop down amenities
“That was great in that it was so over the top,” she laughed.
“We couldn’t do that but we did come up with a lot more transformation in the first presentation. Then the realities of construction took over.”
Still, she said, the key idea remained: Build the space around a core all the plumbing and allow movement unfettered by walls.
It’s an idea more common in European condos and apartments which cluster the “wet” areas, bathroom, laundry room and kitchen, in the centre of the space with no walls or minimal barriers around it.
Even the master bedroom has a sliding wall which opens up to the living area adding more space instantly or withdrawing it for more intimacy and privacy.
Adding a Murphy bed would return that space to living area instantly also. Every square inch is maximized: The “corridor” from the bedroom to the library is actually a walk in closet.
The central core for mechanical and plumbing is also a construction cost saver and for larger units, the common wall between the smaller units can be omitted, opening up space.
While it may have been their first residential project, it won’t be the last.
“We’ve been awarded four other Concord projects, blocks 33, 37, 13 and another one, Block 22, we’re very excited,” Bettencourt said.
“And we’re working with Great Gulf at a project at King and Peter Streets which is still in the design stage and with Remington at their downtown Markham project — where we’re essentially building a city.”
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