The 17-unit, ten-storey residential condominium at Five Hundred Wellington offered a unique opportunity to reflect on the role of the individual private residential building in relation to the city.
Usually condos are assertively autonomous because a fiercely competitive marketplace begs for high-image, stand-alone buildings. However this same architectural bravado can be detrimental to the urban environment.
To be sure, Five Hundred Wellington exhibits a distinctive and confident architectural presence. The residential units are expressed as a stack of terraces and glass boxes, fitted together like some impossibly intricate toy puzzle. But the intriguing exterior form is not just empty bravado. The pushing and pulling of the building envelope allows for apartments with special amenities- spacious outdoor patios and light-filled interior spaces. Simple shapes of charcoal ironspot brick and black zinc metal panels impart substance to the building. This framework of brick and metal is infilled with Ipe soffits, glass guardrails and flush glazing.
At the same time as Five Hundred Wellington knowingly references archetypal architectural images, it is also firmly rooted in the pervading spirit of a place of Toronto. The site faces southward to Wellington Street and beyond to Lake Ontario. It is in many ways an “edge” site near what was once the shoreline of the lake; at the edge of the 19th century railroad yards and escarpment. The building recognizes its “edge” status and southward orientation. Its glazing and terraces are emphatically oriented towards the distant lake. Standing in front of Five Hundred Wellington, the observer cannot help but look to the south, and in so doing participate in the memory and recall of this significant edge to the city of Toronto.
The building is also thoroughly a good citizen. It is LEED registered, and re utilizes an underdeveloped site in a brownfield area of the city. Its energy efficiency is exemplary; demonstrating that the light-filled glass-walled apartments coveted by urbanites can be architecturally detailed to exacting energy conservation standards. The assiduous attention to environmental issues is highlighted by front landscaping, featuring back, flamed granite slabs and a regime of regularly gridded thin, wispy trees.
The significance of this building is much more than its convenient spaciousness. Apart from its suave urban countenance and technical competencies, Five Hundred Wellington is a particularly poignant cosmopolitan essay in vertical living. Seventeen units have been shoehorned into a narrow 19m wide by 65m deep site. The attenuated volume is expressed as a positive attribute - a tall pile of spaces that captures the excitement of visionary Utopian vertical cities.
The architectural design at Five Hundred Wellington certainly does not shirk its responsibilities to the developer - to provide premium well-appointed residences in the downtown. However, we believe its contribution to architecture is greater than just its commodity value. We believe Five Hundred Wellington shows that a green-conscious building can have a compelling architectural presence. We believe this building has something to say about the tension between private and public spaces; we hope it may contribute to the conversation about exciting city-building in the 21st century metropolis.