From the designer Odin Bar and Café is located in downtown Toronto’s east end on King Street East, where the recently reclaimed industrial lands of the City’s new Canary District meet older main streets and their adjacent single family homes. It is a neighborhood increasingly defined by the newly constructed, contemporary glass and concrete condo buildings, as much as it is by the often under cultivated concrete shell retail spaces on their ground floor. The café and bar hybrid is a direct response to this rapidly-developing neighborhood’s growing and diverse needs, spurred by an influx of young professionals and urban dwellers. Odin and its design embraces the neighborhood's newly refined industrial aesthetic, along with the changing culture of how people eat, drink, work and socialize; and, the playful complexity that comes with the day to night transformation.
The basic planning of the café/bar efficiently works with, and enhances the qualities of the new retail space; a concrete box with expansive glazing on two walls, addressing the street and the neighboring lot. Structural columns break the space down the middle, naturally defining the front of house between a high foot traffic bar and more relaxed, low table seating against the corner glazing. The introduction of bar-height seating at the column line seeks to replicate the mass of the columns at a human scale, and creates a more subtle transition between the standing and seated patrons. The remaining service elements of the back bar, prep kitchen, and washroom consume the mundane drywall partitions at the adjacent retail space and rear service corridor. This leaves only the view outwards toward the street, made generous by the soaring exposed concrete ceiling.
The design’s language was defined early in the process on a conceptual basis, and in relation to the ideas and aesthetics of the Nordic inspired brand. Initially imagined by the clients as a landscape of natural rock and ice, it was contrasted with warm wood elements that could also complement the rich tones of the existing concrete shell. This language was quickly honed into intentionally sculpted facets and folds of varying scales, driven by the practical need for a generously malleable approach. This could then adapt with the less than ideal shifts and changes that occur in a fast track process where construction began prior to a completed design resolution. Composed only of Corian and plywood panels over horizontal and vertical plywood ribs, the language transforms to unify the numerous café program elements. The result is a singular form that transitions between monolithic sculpture and its expressed skeletal framework; ultimately, simplifying the design while maintaining a dynamic and nuanced expression of the various performing parts.
The bar is composed of an espresso station, cash area, grab and go food and drink, cocktail and beer station, serving counter, as well as bar-height seating. It’s electrical, mechanical systems, and equipment are fully cloaked behind a solid object that is heavy and grounded against the concrete floor. The form of the bar gestures in and out with a continuous top surface moving up and down to the required heights. This emphasizes the desired interaction at the cash and espresso station, while distinguishing between standing and seated areas.
As the form of the wall comes down at a single point, it rests its weight on the nexus of the customer-facing dairy counter and espresso station. The seemingly solid object then transforms to reveal itself as individual panels over the simple, vertical, and horizontal structure providing its form. The exposed structure serves as a practical shelving solution integrating retail, sound equipment, and overhead storage; while defining the back of bar service spine connecting the front of house to the prep kitchen. In one direction, the wall returns to its solid form before wrapping the back of house spaces.
In another direction, the wall seamlessly transitions into an open canopy overhead that aligns with the perimeter glazing, giving the space a more comfortable scale. A greater density of crisscrossing wood members cost-effectively conceals overhead mechanical services, houses additional lighting and security, and provides acoustical relief for the space. As the ceiling moves away from the back bar, it drops down placing emphasis on the bar area. The ceiling then returns to its full height, breaking apart to create a directional pattern that draws the eye out towards the street during the day, and in from the street at night. As the ceiling pattern finally dissipates towards the corner glazing it joins the bar and seating areas back into a single space.
Desired experiences are further directed and enhanced with adaptable lighting solutions that are both dimmable and color temperature adjustable. Cool temperature lighting augments the sunlight during the day, and at night, warms to create an inviting glow, visible from the street. By integrating the lighting solutions into the form and language, the design further performs; bringing a sensual feel to practical solutions that support daytime and intimate evening activities.
Design Team: David Grant-Rubash, Tyler Malone, Katya Tunon Marshall, Sev Palazov Contractor: W Wolfe Homes Specialty Fabrication & Millwork: CNC Cutting.ca/JDMcNicoll Photography: Designstor/Ryan Fung