Design / The Saint


JAPANESE DESIGN GETS A
CONTEMPORARY REFRESH

A retreat that exudes a sense of calmness, and caters to the wellbeing of the mind, body and soul is how
Dominic De Freitas of Figure3 describes The Saint – an upcoming condo development in Toronto’s bustling
St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood.

“Once the project is complete and home owners have moved in, we want them to feel relaxed and comfortable –
like they are living in a retreat or oasis even though it is located in the downtown core,” says De Freitas.

To achieve that calm and collected aesthetic, the team took cues from Japanese architecture and design to explore
its natural materials, symmetrical lines, horizontal and vertical patterning, texture, light and “curated” views
through techniques of screening and reveal.

“When it comes to traditional Japanese design, it’s rather simple,” explains De Freitas, who says that his trip
to the East Asian country changed the way he looked at Japanese design. “There’s an organic element to the
design but the architecture for the most part is inorganic.”

For The Saint, the style has been captured in a modern and contemporary way, while tying back to the project’s
overall motivation to promote the wellness aspect of healthy living. For this project, De Freitas also experimented
with the use of scale as well as monolithic tiling which are prominent elements in Japanese design.

Before you enter into the main double-height lobby, a wall made up of smaller slates of stone appears to look like
one oversized textured art piece from outside. In front of the stone wall, traditional Japanese wooden doors have
been translated into screens and lit from behind to create a layered look to emphasize the wood panels.

“We want home owners to feel relaxed
and comfortable – like they are living
in a retreat or oasis.”

“This was done so that when a person is in a tall ceiling space and transiting through that space, there’s a sense of
grandeur they experience,” says De Freitas, who believes that setting the right mood, especially here where wellness
is priority, is crucial.

“Mood for me as a designer is created through the use of light and shadow,” he says.

The wellness centre, located on the third floor, features rooms with individual soaking tubs positioned in front of an
expansive window covered in vertical wood slatting.

“I love the idea that through this vertical slatting, the lighting always has a slightly different type of feel depending
on the time of day,” says De Freitas.

Similar wood slatting can also be seen from the serene double-height lounge, which connects the wellness centre
with the fully equipped fitness centre located on the fourth floor. Traditional Japanese zen gardens are featured
here, along with a floor-to-ceiling window that has been designed as a shoji screen made from wood and Japanese
rice paper. This allows for natural light to come in and filter through that screen during the day while at night, LED
lights tucked behind the frame illuminate the space.

In the wellness centre, incorporating water elements was vital to achieving the essence of a spa. There’s a communal
rain chromotherapy room which combines light and colour to provide healing to the body. The meditation room
features a salt rock wall which releases salt into the air as an added benefit of healing properties.

While the health and wellness features offer a more intimate experience, incorporating social amenities into the
design adds a nice counterbalance to the building. On the rooftop, the social spaces include a dining area and a
multi-functional party room designed with modularity and compartmentalization, which can be reconfigured for
the function taking place. The outdoor terrace features quiet zones and more active, socialising areas while the
co-working space has been married with a lounge complete with a bar. To keep the design cohesive throughout
the different levels of amenities, materials such as natural wood combined with stone, slate and
concrete have been re-introduced here.

“It’s very simplistic in nature but we’ve accented it with refined sophisticated screens that delineate the activities
while keeping the space open and communal,” explains De Freitas.

With a mindful approach to everyday life, The Saint possesses a refined, simplicity that exudes a welcoming and
rejuvenating experience to those who will live here, as well as guests visiting.

“Figure3 enriched our vision for the community and their thoughtful design approach is exemplary,” says Matt
Brown of Minto Communities. “We’re proud for The Saint to be recognized as one of Toronto’s most anticipated
residential living experiences.”

Design / First Gulf

A CORPORATE OFFICE
EMBRACING PRIDE OF PLACE

When you first step into the First Gulf office, you’re immediately immersed into an alluring work
space. On one side, you have the private offices neatly tucked away while on the other, a reception
area backed by expansive, panoramic views of Toronto awaits. Located in the Globe & Mail Centre on
King Street East, Suzanne Wilkinson, principal at Figure3, turned to the presidents of First Gulf and
Great Gulf to ensure the core values of both brands were present within the design of the 25,000
square-foot space.

“They were both very polarizing people with very different styles of ownership and management,” says
Wilkinson, who has had a working relationship with the client for 14 years. “We facilitated a visioning
session with both leaders where each had to describe the unique characteristic of their part of the
organization.” The space also had to convey urbanity, creativity, sustainability, and community.
Modern lines mixed with traditional queues was the vision that best represented both the commercial
and the residential side of the client’s business.

Inspiration was also drawn from architecture and its use of raw materials like concrete and natural wood,
which speaks to the philosophy of human intervention with nature and being harmonious of that.

“In order to capture the flow of this very rectilinear building, we softened it by curving
the corners so it would flow better and draw you into the space” explains Wilkinson.

In the private staff area of the office, the atmosphere is kept minimal, bright and clean. Since the space
is designed in a semi open-concept format, it was important to include a mix of smaller meeting rooms
and private telephone rooms to ensure people working in this office had options of places to go. With
the vision of exposing the company culture to all who experience First Gulf’s new headquarters, Figure3
proposed to place their community space and lunchroom – which is often hidden behind doors –
at the forefront, adjacent to the reception and boardroom facility. “This disrupted their way of thinking,”
says Wilkinson.

While the client was used to a more traditional layout, the idea here was to connect potential clients
and visitors to the people of First Gulf in a more hospitable environment. Wilkinson believes that when
employees have pride of place, they emit a sense of ownership and commitment to the organization.
It changes how they feel and behave.

A warm neutral palette with a combination of different woods were used to contrast the raw stone textures
and exposed ceilings seamlessly. The look is very much of a hotel lounge by nature, complete with
a double-sided fireplace, a curated collection of eclectic furniture, a vibrant art collection and a show
stopping backdrop of the city that floods in natural light.

The corridor to the coat storage and bathroom is dimly lit and features a mural of a forest by Tom Fabia,
ensuring every pathway is a curated journey. In the boardroom, a custom light fixture sits directly above
a reflective and sleek table that Wilkinson describes to be “not at all expected but simply beautiful.”

Wall Mural (Alive) ByTom Fabia

Sculpture By Robert Cram

Reception Wall By Joy Charbonneau

You can see an art piece by Robert Cram of a deer that is cast in brass with mechanical air duct coils
wrapped around its body, which is situated at the end of the boardroom gallery.

“You can either be really upset about it or it can inspire while stirring up emotion,” says Wilkinson.
That’s not the only conversation-starter in First Gulf’s office space. Upon entry, you’re greeted by a
medallion-like piece by artist Joy Charbonneau who specializes in creating artwork of geological data
and bathymetry to highlight features you can’t necessarily appreciate in real life. For First Gulf, the
Toronto Harbour was captured, showcasing what exists below the surface of the water.

“We needed to tell the story of how First Gulf and Great Gulf respect nature through sustainability,
innovation and construction,” explains Wilkinson. The art piece shows how the natural shapes of the
harbour are interrupted by human intervention. “Each aspect of this design is very thoughtful and
deliberate,” says Wilkinson. “Blending the architectural details to represent both sides of the business
of First Gulf and Great Gulf and respectfully seeing them come together where it makes sense… I think
the space represents who they are.”