A high degree of difference
Ryan Starr – Yourhome.ca
Tarek Sobhi and Tyler Hershberg stroll down Beverley St., just north of Queen, coming to a stop at the site that will soon be home to their firm’s debut residential project: 12 Degrees.
As the late-afternoon sun bathes the area in a pleasant glow, the principals of BSäR Group of Companies explain the concept behind the 11-storey condo’s eye-catching design.
The building, a series of stacked glass cubes, will feature a cantilevered middle section that’s jogged 12 degrees off centre, providing the basis for the project’s name.
“We’ve taken the corner of the building and swung it open as if you’re opening a door to walk through the neigbourhood,” Sobhi says.
“This is the southern gateway to the Grange neighbourhood, and we wanted to signal to someone coming up Beverley that they’re entering a part of the city that has some very interesting buildings.”
Among those interesting buildings is the Ontario College of Art and Design’s Sharp Centre for Design, a four-storey box supported by 12 multi-coloured pillars that resembles a super-sized tabletop.
Then there’s the Art Gallery of Ontario’s 2004 overhaul, which was spearheaded by renowned Canadian architect Frank Gehry.
“Those buildings put ours in context,” says Hershberg.
The neighbourhood is characterized predominantly by traditional homes, and 12 Degrees, in spite of its off-kilter design, will aim to echo that heritage architecture at its base, which will include six townhomes.
“We addressed the Victorian townhouses to our north with our podium design,” says Charles Gane, a principal with CORE Architects.
“Our first four floors capture the Victorian rhythm of peaks and bay windows by using stone piers that duplicate the peaks and square bay windows that pop in and out.”
Instead of red brick, 12 Degrees’ podium will match the stone found in the foundations of the area’s Victorian homes.
But the throwbacks end there.
BSäR – whose name comes from the Norse word for growth – intends for the rest of 12 Degrees to tap the edgier spirit of what’s happening to the north of the site, as well as the artsy vibe of Queen West.
“It is an eclectic street, with trendsetting shops and a funkiness that we wanted to connect to the site,” Sobhi says. “So (12 Degrees) will represent a balance between the two areas.”
In addition to the six, two-storey townhomes along Beverley, 12 Degrees will include 85 units, ranging from 450-square-foot studios to 1,700-square-foot suites – thirty-one of them will be two bedroom units and nine condos will have three bedrooms.
The top floor of 12 Degrees will include three penthouses, which have yet to be fully designed; buyers will be able to customize certain elements of these suites. One of the penthouses will have a “ridiculously large” 1,800-square-foot terrace, Sobhi says.
12 Degrees’ prices range from the mid-$300,000s for the smaller units to over $1 million for the penthouses.
All units will have nine-foot ceilings throughout, with engineered hardwood flooring and floor-to-ceiling glass. Some suites will also have large terraces.
In keeping with the project’s funky vibe, 12 Degrees’ kitchens have been designed by Munge Leung Design Associates, with natural stone countertops, glass tile backsplashes and appliances that will be hidden behind paneling.
“We’ve taken pains to integrate the appliances so you don’t see the kitchen,” Hershberg says.
“In spaces that are more constrained, you need to make sure that all of your spaces look attractive. Everyone wants open concept, so your kitchen has to fit in as seamlessly as possible.”
The building’s rooftop, which offers prime downtown views, will have a BBQ area, cabana lounge and outdoor pool.
“The idea for the pool was taken from a trend we saw with hotels in the city,” Sobhi says.
“A lot of them have started to open up their pools to the public and they’re jam packed in summer on the weekends. So clearly there’s a yearning in the city for a little summertime rooftop pool action.”
He admits the decision to have a pool was made “against the advice of many of the engineers and property managers” who were shocked that such prime real estate would be given up for this purpose.
Still, Sobhi thinks it was the right move.
“If I’m on the second floor and I’m overlooking Beverley, it’s a shame to think that just up on the roof someone has an amazing view and I don’t get a piece of it.”
“Part of it had to do with a consideration of the demographic we’re targeting,” Hershberg adds. “We’re looking at people who have choices: they can move out to the suburbs or they can choose not to drive for two hours.
“And one of the things they might be thinking they have to sacrifice for this lifestyle is outdoor space. So we want to offer them a bit of the experience they would have in the suburbs, to the extent that we can.”
12 Degrees will have a communal kitchen that residents can use for entertaining, along with a private dining room and lounge.
There will be three levels of underground parking, comprising 70 resident parking spots and six visitor spots.
Sales are underway and construction is slated to begin in May 2011.
Pushing the limits
It’s been suggested that CORE Architects’ stepped-back, stacked cube design for 12 Degrees pushes the limits of what’s acceptable in such a traditional-looking neighbourhood.
Indeed, the project initially met with a fair share of challenges from those who want to preserve the area’s heritage-architecture flavour.
That the building’s design is seen as daring “indicates a real problem with respect to the cityscape we’re dealing with today in Toronto,” Sobhi says.
“Have a look at the city, and it’s no secret most of the architecture is mediocre and safe. When (12 Degrees) is said to be pushing the limits, perhaps it is in the context of the rest of the city, but by no means is it pushing the limits from a global perspective.”
Architect Gane agrees.
“You see what’s going on in Europe and Asia, and it’s like at every corner they’re trying to spin and twist,” he says. “Most of the buildings we’ve been doing in Toronto have been rectangular or orthogonal…
“But with this one we had the ability to play with it a little bit and that kind of freed us up. If we were going to do something a little off kilter and wacko, this was the place to do it.”
And while 12 Degrees will have elements in its podium that give a nod to the area’s heritage architecture, Gane stresses that the rest of the building signals where the neighbourhood is headed.
“We’re moving toward modernism,” he says, “not away from it.”
Address: 15 Beverley St.
Architect: CORE Architects Inc.
Developer: BSäR Group of Cos.
Interiors: Munge Leung Design Associates
Size: 11 storeys; 85 units (ranging from 450 sq. ft. to 1,600 sq. ft.); three penthouses; six townhomes.
Price: From $350,000 to over $1 million
Amenities: Rooftop terrace with pool and cabana lounge; party room with kitchen. Three levels of underground parking; 70 resident parking spots and six visitor spots.
Neighbourhood: Queen West, The Grange.
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