Design / Transit City

BOLD GESTURES MAKE
TRANSIT CITY FEEL LIKE
A HIGH-END HOTEL

With a brand new subway station steps away, CentreCourt’s Transit City three new towers in Vaughn
is all about beginnings: the excitement of starting with a clean slate. The three 55-storey condo towers
(the tallest in York Region) borrow their name from the clamshell-like facade of the Vaughn Metropolitan
Centre Station and the curvaceous SmartVMC Bus Terminal, which both encapsulate a space-age
modernity.

“The design of the towers is very thoughtful and deliberate, creating a landmark from scratch,” notes
Figure3 Principal, Suzanne Wilkinson. TransitCity has set the precedent for the entire master-planned
community, establishing what the neighborhood will look and feel like, and Figure3 had a significant
role shaping that.”

Wilkinson marvels how every last detail of the first three Transit City towers — there will be six in total
eventually — are memorable. “Diamond Schmitt Architects created a wonderful experience.”

Metal panel borders set the exterior apart; the gold boxes reflect the buildings across the street to set
up the jewel-box interiors. “When CentreCourt came to us, they wanted a new development that would
reflect the nature of this once in a life-time opportunity — to bring an urban “vibe” north,” explains Nadine
Burdak, Figure3 VP of Residential Development. “Central to our work at Transit City is the principle of
restrained luxury.”

Shamez Virani, the president of CentreCourt Developments wanted to recreate the aura of a hotel-style
lobby, so residents walking in the front door feel attended to. To add to the lobby’s sense of grandeur,
the ceiling heights are deliberate with lots of very tall gestures such as elongated bookshelves reaching
up to the ceiling. Wilkinson adds: “There are lots of great colour and shadows with the wood slatting and
screen details in gold. On the lobby walls, we’ve used gold surround, marble and lovely mesh sconces.” A
personal favourite of hers is the old-school gold mailboxes that look pulled straight from a glamorous Art
Deco Hollywood hotel.

“The design of the towers is very
thoughtful and deliberate, creating
a landmark from scratch.”
/ Suzanne Wilkinson

“CentreCourt has had great success in leveraging brand opportunities to help reinforce the lifestyle
they curate for their properties – from creating signature scents to incorporating luxury furnishings
from iconic fashion houses such as Versace and Fendi,” says Burdak. “Here in the first phase of Transit
City they took it to the next level by securing a prominent restaurant brand in a space connected
to the main lobby.”

Burdak emphasizes how gold plays a starring role. “To the developer, CentreCourt, this finish speaks to
a language of elegance, sophistication and luxury: you see it in the gold mesh, light fixtures, sconces and
inlays.” Shamez lived in Shangri-La, “so he wanted to bring that atmosphere to this project, blurring lines
between the restaurant and lobby. It injects the lobby with energy, which is a great approach we see
more developers doing,” Wilkinson adds. “They want to have that hotel feel, when people move in they
want it hotel-ready and the lobby lounge is an extension of the restaurant.”

However, Transit City emphasizes creating a community, as well as creating a lifestyle. Tower residents
are granted a year-long membership to the adjacent 100,000-square-foot YMCA, complete with
swimming pool and basketball courts. As a result the amenity rooms in Towers 1 and 2 didn’t need to
incorporate gym equipment. “The amenities are all aligned on the same floor so they feel like an
extension of one another, even though they’re separate they’re all connected to the outdoor spaces,”
says Wilkinson. In Tower 2 the amenity room is divided into a party room and a golf simulator that
leads outside to the terrace, while Tower 1 has a billiards room.

But the crown jewel has to be the rooftop patios, designed by internationally renowned firm Claude
Cormier + Associés. Since the buildings are the tallest in the area, there are almost uninterrupted views
of the horizon. Towers that seem to stretch up to the sky are landscaped with an abundance of trees,
boxwood hedges, manicured lawns, and oversized planters. Sitting on the generously proportioned
terraces, the feeling is expansive and transportive. “Because the buildings are adjacent to each other
and on the same level, the terraces feel connected, an extension of each other even though they’re in
separate towers,” observes Wilkinson. “They’ve even managed to make it feel like there are hills,
it’s just stunning.”

“This project is such a success as it’s the culmination of an amazing vision of residential and hospitality
living and expert execution,” says Wilkinson. “It was a fantastic collaboration with CentreCourt,
and Transit City speaks for itself as a legacy development.”

Design / Globe and Mail Centre

BREAKING
NEWS

There’s a lot to read between the lines at 351 King St E. A graphic black and white 17-storey tower,
The Globe & Mail Centre could be pulled from the front page of the venerable national broadsheet. But
like the best newspaper reportage, there is truth to be uncovered, stories to be told, and history made to
feel relevant and alive.

Built by First Gulf within the 10 city blocks of what was originally called the Town of York, the Globe
and Mail Centre (which snagged a NAIOP Real Estate Excellence (REX) award for Office Development of the
Year in 2018) sits within the bustling St. Lawrence neighbourhood. This building occupies a storied site,
the former ‘Berkeley House’ was a significant early residence in the Town. Built in 1795 and made from bricks
and covered by stucco, the house was considered “large and rambling, with a somewhat quaint but
stately appearance.”

The Small family, who lived at Berkeley House from 1795 to 1814, were important members of the Family
Compact and the social and political milieu of Toronto. The house was the setting for meetings of the
Executive Council of Upper Canada and in 1813, American troops looted and sacked it during their
occupation following the Battle of York.

Natural honed Piasentina stone floor hand selected in Italy.

Handblown glass light fixture by Bocci, Omer Arbel’s West Coast design firm.

“It’s subtle but we’re peeling back something
modern and integrating the history within and
displaying the old within the space.”
/ Suzanne Wilkinson

During excavation, bits of the house revealed itself, including a bottle of Heinz’s intriguingly named ‘Woozy
Sauce,’ as well as bits of porcelain, remnants of the grand sets of dishes that graced many important dinners.
“A lot of Toronto history has been demolished and lost,” acknowledges Suzanne Wilkinson, Principal at
Figure3, which designed the lobby space in collaboration with Diamond Schmitt Architects. “We wanted
to establish a museum-like environment in the lobby to honour that heritage.”

The Globe and Mail Centre is surrounded by pillars of design, Canadian retailers Nienkamper and plan b, as
well as Italinteriors and Kiosk, purveyors of cutting edge contemporary furnishings. “Initially we conceived of
the lobby as a European piazza, with an illuminated ceiling that mimics the dappled light through the trees,”
explains Wilkinson. To elevate that sense of history, artifacts that were unearthed at the site of
Berkeley House are preserved in jewel box niches in the main lobby, a public arcade that connects King and Front
streets, creating an accessible 24-hour pedestrian connection with retailers, coffee bars and restaurants.

Underfoot, natural honed Piasentina stone floors hand selected in Italy are accented by polished white quartz
slab walls. Overhead, the ceiling appears to get higher as the streetscape grade lowers toward Front Street,
making for an open and bright arcade. Figure3 intentionally contrasted the elevator banks of dark acid-etched
mirrored walls to distinguish the public and private areas.

To celebrate the history of the site, the original foundation walls of the historical Berkeley House are integrated in a seating area near the elevator lobby. The humble stone creates a striking contrast with the
smoothness of the white quartz wall and is lit from above to highlight the rugged texture. “It’s subtle but we’re
peeling back something modern and integrating the history within and displaying the old within the space,”
says Wilkinson.

To bring in softness and reflectivity, a handblown glass light fixture by Bocci, Omer Arbel’s West Coast design
firm, hovers over the reception desk. The glass orbs float like jellyfish in front of a slatted wall backdrop in dark
stained wood, another Canadian nod.

But Wilkinson is quick to point out that Figure3 just didn’t shape the design of the lobby. “Our role in advising
First Gulf began before there was a hole in the ground. We consulted on the efficiency and planning of the
building, encouraging outdoor spaces by having patios and places to go.” It’s important to look forward, to
shape the office of the future that now stands on the grounds of a historic Canadian home. “What are tenants
going to be looking for in the future? Because we’re always considering what tenants, staff and employees
want, in this case: beautiful views, open ceilings, flexibility with raised floor systems and making sure
there are outdoor spaces,” Wilkinson explains.

Made up of 10 vertically stacked blocks of varying heights, the exterior of the Globe and Mail Centre offers
expansive landscaped terraces with unobstructed views of the waterfront and city skyline. “By having this
layered building where the floor plates shift means there are a number of floors that have outdoor spaces like
little balconies.” The Globe and Mail has a space on the top floor with a patio which can be rented for a variety
of special occasions, landmark celebrations and corporate events. Now the building is quite another kind of
gathering point for Toronto’s social fabric.

Design / Grand Central Mimico

A TRANSIT-TAILORED COMMUNITY
ON THE TORONTO HORIZON

Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe cast a long shadow, aside from his masterful Toronto-Dominion
Centre (Philip Johnson dubbed it the largest Mies in the world). His vision of unencumbered, open
public spaces were freed from the fussiness and architectural fripperies of previous design movements.

Although van der Rohe didn’t design the Ottawa Train station (it’s by seminal Canadian architecture
firm John B. Parkin & Associates) the fingerprints of his International style are very much in evidence.
Described as almost spiritual in design — like a cathedral — the steel trusses are a nod to van der Rohe’s
steel I-beams and convey the visceral experience and excitement of travel itself. Like the steel rails that
crisscross Canada, this station embraces the essential industrial components at its core and elevates
them to something grandiose and awe inspiring.

There’s an almost heroic quality to the exposed steel trusses of the Ottawa station which make up a
contemporary composition so Miesian in architectural inspiration. It reflects the mid-century optimism
of 1966 — when the station was built — when space travel was the newest frontier and technology
drove a new generation of architects and designers.

Often taken for granted pre-Pandemic, travel and movement have become glamorous once again.
The freedom that travel affords has acquired new lustre and is the vital lifeblood of major cities.

“We took the grid language from
the lobby and simplified it into
a glazing system.”
/ Vazken Karageozian

In the lakeside community of Mimico, one of Toronto’s oldest neighbourhoods, the railroad was the
raison d’être for its creation. In 1906, The Grand Trunk Railway opened the Mimico Yards and the need
for nearby housing for railway workers and their families spurred a building boom in the area. As the
yards took root, so did the community. The name Mimico even has transitory roots: it was inspired by
the Ojibway word “Omiimiikaa,” to describe the home of countless passenger pigeons.

Today, Mimico is the site of Vandyk Properties new Grand Central Mimico, steps from the Mimico Go
Station. Spanning four city blocks across 55 acres, it makes up over 2 million square feet of mixed-use
development. This is more than a commuter nexus, it’s a home base nestled along a nature trail that
runs parallel to the Go Train station tracks.

The urban development will feature nine condominiums, a combination of workspaces, retail,
restaurants, markets and a variety of outdoor amenities set beside walking trails and bike paths.
This connectedness makes owning a car practically obsolete.

“To ensure the industrial aesthetic is warm
and inviting, the details we chose in the
furnishing, accessories and lighting make it
attractive and welcoming.”
/ Carl Laffan

To kickstart the hyperconnected project is The Buckinghman: a three-tower condominium built on a
warehouse style podium with ground level retail and office spaces. Figure3 looked to industrial design
for inspiration that’s often seen in old train stations and Manhattan’s Meatpacking District – reimagined
with an elevated, luxurious look.

“To ensure the industrial aesthetic is warm and inviting, the details we chose in the furnishing, accessories
and lighting make it attractive and welcoming,” says Carl Laffan, Creative Lead at Figure3. Clean
lines combined with the strong dramatic form of the buildings echo the grand public halls of an earlier
era of train travel. Metal bracing seen on the outside has been reintroduced in the gallery-esque lobby.

“We took the grid language from the lobby but simplified it into a glazing system,” says Vazken
Karageozian, Team Lead at Figure3. “The geometric shapes are perfectly in harmony with the softer
materials.” The raw industrial components are juxtaposed effortlessly by sumptuous materials like
black marble and brass. “When designing a home for people, you want to create something that feels
special when they walk in,” says Laffan. “That’s what design is about – you’re looking for an
emotional reaction and experience.”

The social club features two bold private party rooms with black marble fireplaces, a private dining
room, and a sports lounge with a golf simulator. To make the most of the double-height ceiling, the
Figure3 team transformed the mezzanine dwelling, originally designated as a mechanical room, into
media rooms that feature karaoke and theatres to amp up social connectivity and provide a source of
community close to home.

Across the terrace, which has been outfitted with barbecues and fire pit lounges, lies a 7,515-square-foot
wellness centre with a fully equipped state-of-the-art gym, and yoga studio. Taking into account the
future of the workplace, the Buckingham has incorporated a flexible co-working space for its residents,
complete with a private meeting room and a spacious outdoor terrace designed by Kohn Architects
and SvN. Rendered in metal, wood, and black marble for a dose of luxury, the versatile setup allows for
residents to work how they please.

When it came time to tailor the suites, Figure3’s approach was refined luxury. A monolithic kitchen with
clean lines and integrated features keeps the look tidy while floor-to-ceiling windows and full width balconies
offer stunning panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

“It’s all about the details, textures and materiality,” says Karageozian, who has worked closely with the
various architecture and marketing teams to perfect the concept throughout The Buckingham. The
expression “less is more” is often attributed to van der Rohe and though he may not have come up with
the actual expression, his work is a reflection of that pure sentiment. Grand Central Mimico interprets
that spirit, celebrating beauty that comes with stripping elements back to their essential nature, clearing
the way for a brighter, connected future and the wide horizon beyond.

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.”