Slowly but surely, timber construction is poised to take over Toronto’s downtown core. From high-profile projects like Limberlost Place on George Brown College’s waterfront campus, designed by Moriyama & Teshima and Acton Ostry Architects, to Adjaye Associates’ Timber House proposal for the much-anticipated Quayside development, big-name architects are embracing the potential of this sustainable construction material. Smaller-scale residential projects, too, are overdue for a timber revolution. Case in point: Grain Lofts, a mid-rise development helmed by Gairloch that is set to transform Toronto’s Junction Triangle neighbourhood.
Designed by local architect Gabriel Fain, the six-storey condo offers a solution to Toronto’s “missing middle,” a phenomenon by which single-family houses and soaring skyscrapers have historically outpaced the development of similar mid-rise projects. It’s a relatively new typology for the Junction, an area that has long been sheltered from Toronto’s condo boom. Unlike traditional high-rise condos, however, Grain Lofts won’t impose on the neighbourhood’s tree-lined residential streets, charming mom-and-pop shops and vibrant creative spaces. Rather, the building was designed to carefully integrate within the Junction’s unique urban landscape.
“We were considerate of the ground level, what it would be like from the streetscape and to the pedestrian experience of the building,” explains Fain. To that end, the building retains a modest scale with retail spaces included at street level. Constructed entirely from cross-laminated timber (CLT) sourced from local renewable forests, the building’s materiality also sets it apart from the traditional steel and glass towers that dominate Toronto’s urban fabric. Aside from the inherent warmth it brings to the complex, the CLT is a natural carbon sink that sequesters an estimated 220 kilograms of carbon per cubic metre, reducing the building’s carbon footprint.
Grain Lofts demonstrates that sustainable design can be as beautiful as it is pragmatic. Paul Johnston, head of sales at Unique Urban Homes, aptly describes the development as “a mid-rise with the convention of a single-family home.” Ranging from 500 to over 1,000 square feet, the boutique condo hosts an assortment of one-plus-den, two- and three-bedroom suites. The 28 loft-style units are bathed with natural light and imbued with a warm material palette that complements the building’s wood construction. Left exposed, the structure evokes a contemporary Scandinavian sensibility made visible through the building’s Corten steel and glass façade.
The common thread amongst each of the unique layouts is a luxurious selection of finishes and appliances. From quartz countertops and frameless glass showers to energy-efficient Miele appliances and bespoke Italian kitchen cabinetry, each loft is expertly composed down to the details. Each suite is also outfitted with a private outdoor space, a scarcity amongst Toronto condos. And for all residents, a central community courtyard complete with a meditative sculpture garden offers a space for connection. The forward-thinking development boasts an abundance of five-star amenities for modern living, including smart-building technology, electric vehicle charging stations, a parking stacker system and laneway-connected bike racks.
“We really took our time and asked, ‘how would I want to live here?’” says Fain. “It wasn’t only about maximizing space but about showcasing the wood as much as possible and bringing out the expression and form of the building. This is unique for a mid-rise; the courtyard typology is more European, there are few like it in Toronto.” Indeed, Gairloch’s Grain Lofts are a rare find in the Toronto housing market, addressing a critical need for medium-density development while setting a new standard for sustainable residential construction.
This content was published by Azure on behalf of Gairloch Developments.
In the rapidly developing Junction Triangle neighbourhood, the mass-timber mid-rise designed by Gabriel Fain Architects hints at the future of urban housing.