Text description provided by the architects. The design stripped down the existing retail space and exposed 100-year-old masonry walls and plumbing. Scope included the renovation of the existing space for use as co-location of a plant shop and cold-pressed juice store. The design included several millwork fixtures, interior finishes, lighting, new storefront construction, and landscaping. Scope included branding and identity for both clients.
Toronto’s typology of long, narrow, and dark retail spaces is re-imagined as Alice’s fall down the rabbit hole (from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll). The weight of the store is balanced by the Queen Street frontage and laneway frontage at the rear garden. The typical understanding of the streetscape and the customer experience was subverted. Toronto is undergoing a shift in attention to its laneway network. This project sharpens the role that the laneway frontage plays. By creating a destination at the ‘rear’ of this building, users are drawn through space in more than one direction.
The contribution a project makes to its unique location, to neighboring uses, and to community building. The Victorian-era brick building facades along West Queen West are a patterned repetition. This storefront works to break that repetition with a space dedicated to the pedestrian refuge as part of the entry threshold. This enclave allows pedestrians to escape from the pace of the sidewalk and pause for a moment. The inset storefront provides a shaded bench and weather protection for pedestrians and a place for dogs to relax. A similar refuge is created with a rear garden bringing a green landscape, activity, and a new frontage along the rear laneway.
The contribution the project makes to a sustainable environment including the Sustainable Design Merits of the project. The store entry is inset to passively shade during the summer and to provide a refuge from snow and wind in the winter. The large doors in the front and rear of the store allow for cross-ventilation, and the planted a rear garden works to reduce the urban heat island effect. It animates and draws a portion of the retail use of the space to the outdoors. The front elevation was designed to support a vine-covered lattice that would shade the building, and green the streetscape. All millwork is constructed using solid locally sourced Douglas fir with minimal treatment.
On a project with two clients, design addressed the needs of both a food-based and plant-based business in every design decision. Principal to both was the need to deconstruct the division between customer and staff and to weave the uses of the shop into the community. This was achieved by creating an outdoor public space at both the front and rear of the building. In every element, natural, unfinished, and locally sourced materials reflected the sustainability tenets of both clients’ ethos.
Retail design is turned sideways in this project. The project’s legacy is a redefined street front along both front and rear elevations of the building. The façade of the building was treated as a ground plane where street furniture, such as benches and standards, are understood as part of a matrix that includes artifacts mounted to the building façade, such as signage and gas meters. One’s use of the retail space is as a passage to a second street frontage at the existing rear laneway– a new destination for a city reaching over densification in many pedestrian neighbourhoods.