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