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Q&A with Hariri Pontarini Architects

December 21, 2023

This month, Michael Attard of Hariri Pontarini Architects (HPA) sat down with Fitzrovia to discuss the vision for Elm and Ledbury, and how they brought that vision to life. 

HPA is the architect behind the design of both Elm and Ledbury. In this Q&A, Attard walks through the process of designing this rental community from inception to the careful finishing touches that result in Elm and Ledbury being more than just residences, but rather a living, breathing urban community that marries the best of Queen Street East with the epitome of boutique rental living. 

1. Who is Hariri Pontarini Architects, and what was your role in designing Elm and Ledbury?

Hariri Pontarini Architects (HPA), founded in 1994 by Siamak Hariri and David Pontarini, is a distinguished Canadian architectural and interior design firm. Guided by a commitment to elevate the human experience, HPA translates client aspirations into built reality with a portfolio spanning mixed-use, residential, office, retail, institutional, and heritage projects. Operating across diverse scales and sectors, HPA's 150-person team brings a holistic perspective, considering social, cultural, and historical factors in their designs. With a notable presence in North American municipalities, HPA contributes meaningfully to urban landscapes. In the design of Elm and Ledbury, HPA served as the design architect, collaborating with Turner Fleischer as the executive architect of record. This project showcases HPA's dedication to design excellence, forging enduring collaborations and contributing to the city skyline with sensitivity to local contexts.

2. What sets Elm and Ledbury apart from other rental communities in Toronto?

Elm and Ledbury distinguish themselves among purpose-built rentals through thoughtful considerations in both use and location. The development strategically caters to diverse demographics, offering a tailored experience for young professionals in one building and family-sized units in the other. This intentional segmentation allows for a customized living environment that meets the unique needs of urban renters.

In terms of location, Elm and Ledbury's urban-centric positioning stands out. Situated at a vibrant downtown intersection, residents benefit from easy access to transit, theatres, shopping centres, hospitals, and educational institutions. The development not only aligns with the pulse of city life but also contributes to the creation of a dynamic community hub. By seamlessly integrating into the urban fabric, Elm and Ledbury redefine the rental experience, offering more than just residences but a connected and enriched lifestyle in the heart of Toronto.

3. What distinction can be made between Elm and Ledbury? What design elements make them cohesive as a single community?

Elm and Ledbury, while distinct entities within the larger masterplan, are intricately woven together to form a cohesive and vibrant community. As part of a four-building masterplan, they contribute to a broader sense of community. This unity is reinforced through shared spaces such as mews, pops, and parks that seamlessly link the buildings, promoting interaction and a sense of belonging.

Design elements play a crucial role in establishing cohesion. The dispersion of amenity functions across both buildings ensures widespread activation and engagement, fostering a dynamic community spirit that spans multiple floors. The clever use of bridges not only connects the structures physically but also enhances the vertical integration of communal spaces.  Individual identity shines through a thoughtful colour palette, creating visual interest and uniqueness for each building while reinforcing their cohesive connection. Lower amenities, intelligently shared between Elm and Ledbury, are interconnected via bridges, promoting a collaborative atmosphere. Exclusive rooftop amenities, such as pools, offer a personalized experience within each building, contributing to a harmonious urban tapestry.  The extensive list of available amenities, ranging from on-site fitness facilities to a Montessori facility, dog spa, and virtual healthcare clinic, further enhances the living experience. This comprehensive approach, coupled with a cohesive landscape scheme by CCxA (Claude Cormier Landscape Architects), underscores Elm and Ledbury's status as a unified community within the larger masterplan, exemplifying a harmonious blend of individuality and collective connection.

4. Please explain Hariri Pontarini Architects' rationale behind key exterior design elements of Elm and Ledbury. 

We intentionally curated the exterior design of Elm and Ledbury, aiming to harmoniously marry simplicity with nuanced details, ultimately giving rise to a truly distinctive aesthetic.  I’ll list a few key design considerations that come to mind:

Reintroduction of Brick - Deliberately reintroducing brick to Elm and Ledbury's exterior design connects the structures to Queen Street's architectural context while nodding to the neighbourhood's history. This timeless material, chosen for its enduring character, infuses a new community with the captivating allure of brick, adding a unique visual identity to Toronto's diverse urban landscape. This intentional design choice not only enhances aesthetic appeal but also underscores a commitment to creating structures that seamlessly blend with their surroundings and stand the test of time.

Soft Radius Corners and Terrace Forms - The soft radius corners contribute to an approachable and inviting form. This design element humanizes the structures, making them more relatable and friendly. Additionally, terrace forms that gracefully step back from the street create visual interest and add a layer of architectural sophistication. This approach not only enhances the buildings' aesthetics but also prioritizes the pedestrian experience at ground level.

Simplicity of Tower Skin - Elm and Ledbury's tower skin embodies simplicity, allowing the buildings to harmonize with their surroundings. The addition of detailed touches, such as curved radius corners, introduces an element of sophistication and visual intrigue. This juxtaposition of simplicity and detail reflects our nuanced design philosophy, creating structures that are both understated and visually captivating.

Minimal Window to Wall Ratio - The minimal window-to-wall ratio serves as a dual-purpose element. Beyond reflecting a commitment to privacy and interior comfort, this design approach significantly enhances building performance and sustainability. By minimizing heat loss and optimizing thermal performance, the intentional choice contributes to improved energy efficiency, creating a serene living environment for residents. The result not only aligns with sustainable principles but also exemplifies a thoughtful integration of architectural aesthetics and environmentally conscious solutions. Elm and Ledbury stand as a testament to the nuanced approach of balancing elegance, sustainability, and resident well-being in their design.

Tapered Columns for Grade-Related Functions - The use of tapered columns serves a dual purpose. Functionally, they frame grade-related functions, providing structural support while aesthetically contributing to the buildings' design coherence. This attention to detailing, even in structural elements, underscores our commitment to a holistic and refined architectural expression.

5. What are the standout architectural features of Elm and Ledbury? 

I am drawn to the architectural nuances of Elm and Ledbury, particularly the meticulous attention given to the proportion and scale of the brick base, the graceful undulation of balconies, and the interconnected bridges. Each building's deliberate response to its outdoor environment adds a unique dimension to the project. Coupled with a harmonious material palette echoing Queen Street's character, these features collectively craft a welcoming and warm community atmosphere, effectively converting a once-empty parking lot into a vibrant and lively urban space.