Text description provided by the architects. The winning competition design for the Bell Lightbox and Festival Tower was conceived on an epic scale to create a city of cinema within the city that hosts one of the most important annual film festivals. It was also designed to reflect the heterogeneity and openness that characterizes Toronto. Located in the heart of the city’s media and entertainment district, the architecture of the Bell Lightbox at the corner of King and John Streets injects energy into the precinct.
The Bell Lightbox, a horizontal, 5-story podium building, establishes its cultural image on the streetscape while the 42-story point tower, set back on John Street, commands the skyline. The two elements formally relate in the simple proportions of the volumes, common materials, and quality of detailing. The transition between the two occurs at the point where the roof of the Bell Lightbox meets the base of the Tower. The form and expression of the condominium tower creates a clean, contemporary figure with an illuminated light box at its top to enrich Toronto’s evolving skyline.
The King Street elevation is a composition of projecting volumes and surfaces contained within a continuous loop of movement that begins with the street level canopy and then rises to the upper levels to culminate at the stepped roof. The canopy, with its metal soffits and LED lights, enhances the arrival experience. Extended sequences of horizontal montages of clear, fritted and translucent glass panels animate the upper surfaces and in project the silhouettes of people moving within to the street.
Inside the Lightbox, the design acts as a framework for human action and imagination in which the solidity of architecture and the ephemerality of the medium of film are fused. The flexible plan is based on the tradition of industrial loft buildings. Within this framework, the volumes of the cinema theaters (ranging from 80 to 550 seats) and spaces for gathering, display and production are arranged to promote movement and visual connectivity. A three-story central atrium features a red framed glass window into the master control booth. The architectural volumes of the five cinemas are expressed as black zinc clad buildings within the building, and the spaces between act as interior streets along which visitors are oriented. The cinema interiors are dark, unadorned and enclosed to focus the attention between viewers and film.
The main entrance leads directly to the main escalator, ramps and stairs which together weave a fluid sequence of movement to the cinemas above. On the fourth and fifth levels administrative and production spaces, library and archives are organized around a second, light-filled atrium. A generous café and restaurant, operated by Oliver Bonacini, occupy the first two levels of the corner at King and John. At street level, Canteen is wrapped by an outdoor café terrace. On the second level, Luma is integrated with the Blackberry Lounge.
The design culminates in the monumentally-scaled stepped roof. Inspired by the stepped roof of the Villa Malaparte in Capri featured in Jean Luc Godard’s 1963 Contempt, this major new outdoor public space encapsulates the fusion of architecture and film.