Daniels City of the Arts

A Catalyst for City Building

A new, mid-block urban space defines this tru­ly mixed-use water­front project that is designed to cre­ate a day­time pop­u­la­tion almost equal to that of its night­time. Toronto’s Queen’s Quay is an area of mas­sive urban devel­op­ment and its prox­im­i­ty to Lake Ontario means it is exposed to fre­quent winds that, in win­ter espe­cial­ly, make it some­what inhos­pitable. While embrac­ing new mea­sures to mit­i­gate the water­front micro-cli­mate, the Daniels Water­front City of the Arts is becom­ing an artis­tic bea­con for the city and home to a spir­it­ed cre­ative and cul­tur­al com­mu­ni­ty that includes George Brown’s School of Design, Daniels Artscape Launch­pad, and the Uni­ver­sité de l’Ontario Française (UOF.)

Light­house, our East Tow­er for Daniels City of the Arts, received the 38th Annu­al BILD Award for Best New Com­mu­ni­ty.

When the time came to build on the north­ern end of the block, GPA embraced the oppor­tu­ni­ty to push the bound­aries of mid-block pub­lic space – lit­er­al­ly. With care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion for the building’s ground lev­el con­fig­u­ra­tion, we dis­cov­ered we could pro­vide a new out­door space for the com­mu­ni­ty of the block while also cre­at­ing an alter­nate more shel­tered pub­lic space par­al­lel to Queen’s Quay.

Daniels City of the Arts
The jagged sof­fit of the podi­um helps cre­ate the unique shape of the Yard below, which pinch­es and pulls to deter the harsh ele­ments of its water­front posi­tion.

The North Block is designed to respond to the nuances of its imme­di­ate urban con­text on the ground, to vir­tu­al­ly expand the unique yard to the south, and to con­tribute cre­ative­ly to the large-scale con­text of Toronto’s Water­front, as it ris­es above.

Not a court­yard or a lane, the new mid-block space acts more as an indus­tri­al yard: space adja­cent to the build­ing that serves a func­tion­al pur­pose for the cre­ative com­mu­ni­ty who use it. It’s designed to be a walk­a­ble pub­lic space to linger or sit while pro­vid­ing spill out space for the cul­tur­al pro­grams. The podi­um hous­es a uni­ver­si­ty with grade relat­ed retail, gal­leries, and res­i­den­tial lob­bies for the res­i­den­tial tow­ers above.

“By com­mit­ting to rig­or­ous­ly con­ven­tion­al con­struc­tion for the tow­ers we could unleash an uncon­ven­tion­al­ly dynam­ic podi­um to strong­ly define the new yard.”

The podi­um, accor­dion-like, push­es and pulls around its perime­ter to cre­ate depth and shel­ter that invite peo­ple in. Its intri­ca­cy is bal­anced by the sim­plic­i­ty of the tow­ers above, where ceram­ic frit pat­terns, inspired by the near­by wind and water, pro­vide tex­ture to its oth­er­wise sim­ple forms and con­struc­tion. A two-dimen­sion­al treat­ment employed to cre­ate three-dimen­sion­al move­ment whether approach­ing from the near­by ele­vat­ed express­way, from the water, a dis­tant point in the city, or even look­ing up from the street below.

The sim­plic­i­ty and econ­o­my of the tow­ers allow the podi­um to become more rich­ly respon­sive to the con­text at street lev­el by focus­ing archi­tec­tur­al inten­si­ty on the pub­lic spaces shared by all inhab­i­tants and vis­i­tors of the build­ing. The result is a new urban refuge for cre­ativ­i­ty in its many forms.

Artist Ned Kahn’s ‘Invert­ed Lake’ spans the yard and comes to life with winds of the water­front. Our cus­tom gran­ite bases to the Yard tree lights also act as seat­ing areas for pedes­tri­ans.

Every great part­ner­ship is defined by how each part­ner responds to the needs of the oth­er. Work­ing in part­ner­ship with Daniels, one such moment defined the project. “In order for us to cre­ate this new idea of the yard and podi­um the tow­ers have to be sim­ple.”

“Daniels is unequiv­o­cal­ly a pas­sion­ate city builder ded­i­cat­ed to the ampli­fi­ca­tion of cul­ture in their devel­op­ments through­out Toron­to. They under­stood the oppor­tu­ni­ty. And we under­stood the eco­nom­ics.”

Project Facts

  • Client

    The Daniels QQ Cor­po­ra­tion

  • Location

    Toron­to, Ontario

  • Size

    900,000 sq.ft.

  • Status


  • Affiliate Architect

    Archi­tect of Record — Rafael + Bigauskas Archi­tects

  • Sub-Consultant Team

    Inte­ri­ors — Gow Hast­ings, Cec­coni Simone

    Land­scape — Claude Cormi­er

    Devel­op­ment Con­sul­tant — Ken Green­berg

    Struc­tur­al — Jablon­sky, Ast and Part­ners Inter­na­tion­al

    Mechan­i­cal / Elec­tri­cal — Smith + Ander­sen

    Trans­porta­tion — BA Con­sult­ing Group Ltd.

    Code — Ran­dall Brown & Asso­ciates

    Sig­nage / Wayfind­ing — KDA Design

    Acoustic — Coul­ter


  • Renderings

    Nomis Dig­i­tal

  • Photography

    Riley Snelling
    Richard John­son

  • Artist / Graphics

    Ned Kahn