Posts Tagged 'Tampold and Wells'

The Colonnade: mixed use on the Mink Mile

A landmark on Toronto’s Mink Mile, The Colonnade at 131 Bloor Street West became the city’s first modern mixed-use building upon completion in 1964. Architect Gerald Robinson (with Tampold & Wells) deftly combined residential, commercial and retail space to create a vibrant hub for urban living.

The Colonnade’s layering of functions begins at sidewalk level. The two- and three-storey podium showcases a long row of storefronts, which curve inward at the two-thirds point to form an elegant oval entrance forecourt. Punctuating the forecourt is a sculptural concrete spiral staircase to the restaurant terrace above; at the time, the staircase was claimed to be the only one of its type without a central support. From the main lobby, an escalator ride to the second level reveals a high-ceilinged pedestrian street, naturally lit by arched clerestory windows and lined with shops, offices and restaurants. Giant oval portholes—a very Sixties design motif—offer views of the Victoria College grounds to the south. Rising above the retail podium is an 11-storey slab tower housing 160 luxury apartments and two floors of offices. Bi-level penthouse suites feature private garden terraces and swimming pools as well as panoramic views of the city and Lake Ontario.

Externally, The Colonnade is defined by its exposed concrete frame, bush-hammered in places for surface texture, and precast spandrel panels. The tower’s waffle-pattern façade is based on a five-foot structural grid; perimeter loads are distributed to the broadly-arched lower columns by massive concrete transfer girders. The flexibility of the grid dimensions allows suites to be readily reconfigured to suit resident requirements and market demands. The image below, looking east from Avenue Road, illustrates the thoughtful integration of The Colonnade’s podium with that of the earlier Britannica Building next door. Also note the TTC streetcars on Bloor Street, soon to be phased out with the opening of the Bloor-Danforth subway in February 1966.

An immediate critical and financial success, The Colonnade inspired a generation of mixed-use buildings in neighbouring Yorkville and other parts of Toronto. A glittery 1980s renovation has since been scaled back, allowing the building’s inherent qualities to once again shine through, and the streetfront is lined with Prada, Chanel and Cartier. Life is good.

Tartu College’s Brutalism on Bloor Street

Rising straight up from the sidewalk like an extrusion of raw, striated concrete, Tartu College at 310 Bloor Street West was completed in 1969 as a University of Toronto student co-op residence and as a library, archive and study centre for the Estonian-Canadian community.

To avoid the oppressive heaviness of many Brutalist towers, architects Tampold and Wells broke up the elevations with a series of vertical shear walls and staggered setbacks; bands of strip windows further dematerialize the building’s mass and provide a strong horizontal counterpoint. The main Bloor Street entrance is several feet above the sidewalk, deeply recessed into the façade at the top of a steep and rather pinched staircase, but this unfriendliness is balanced by the warm golden oak of the entrance doors (a well-detailed Aaltoesque feature) and the engagingly superscaled TARTU lettering cast into the adjoining wall. Internally, the L-shaped residential floors are divided into six-person suites, each with a communal lounge and kitchen facilities; individual bed-study rooms are deliberately small in size to promote social interaction among the residents. Tartu College’s innovative design and quality execution were recognized by a 1971 Canadian Housing Design Council Award.

Tampold and Wells designed a number of multi-unit residential complexes in the Toronto area during the 1960s and 70s. Nearby examples include the famously anarchic Rochdale College (now the Senator David A. Croll Apartments for seniors) at 341 Bloor Street West, the University of Toronto’s Student Family Housing Towers at 30 and 35 Charles Street West, and the landmark The Colonnade, Toronto’s first modern mixed-use building (retail, commercial and residential), at 131 Bloor Street West (with architect Gerald Robinson).

Recent Posts