This weekend marked the soft opening of the new Broadview Hotel, situated on the North-west corner of Queen Street East and Broadview Avenue in Toronto’s east end. A much-anticipated event in the design community, this project has involved many local and international creative collaborations. How could I stay away?
I found the main entrance off Broadview leading to a lobby area with a café to the north and a future fine dining space to the south. As I sipped my coffee in the sunny main floor café on Sunday morning, I marveled at how the design team had crafted such a pleasing interior in this historic building. (Interiors by @theDesignAgency) Historic buildings often come with real or perceived limitations, and some design teams are better than others when responding to existing architectural conditions. In this case, the exterior of the four-storey Romanesque Revival style building carries strong stylistic cues. Originally built (in 1891) when architectural beauty was largely evaluated in terms of the quality and content of its decorative ornament, the building is admired for its “wide arches and rusticated stonework on the ground floor, rows of rounded arch and square-head window openings, and decorative terra cotta panels.” (Heritage Toronto historic plaque, 2015)
Inside the new café, the chief architectural elements are tall stove pipe black columns – suggestive of chimney stacks with dentil detailing perhaps scaled to the red brickwork outside – that support a ceiling grid of black beams and white decorated coffers. Large, stylistically neutral plate glass windows provide views of the surrounding neighbourhood. The interior is presented as an historic architectural piece that is clarified chiefly by the introduction of distinct furniture groupings.
Furniture plays a key role in the success of this interior. This isn’t surprising, considering the Revival-era context of its ornamented architectural shell. Where furniture is built-in, it strives to look stand-alone and preserve is own identity. Diverse seating and table styles suggest an amalgam of the room’s historical past. (Graphic murals energetically illustrate this past in the adjacent, not-to-be missed stairwell.) The capacity for furniture types and arrangements to carry meaning is exploited to the fullest; we recognize and take comfort in these figures that function as cues. Even though it is not a large interior landscape, its ability to diversify interior spatial zones is stimulating. These zones can be defined by their furniture: the circular stacked bar; the wingback entrance lounge; the womb-chair in wood salon; the café chair dining range; the harvest table multi-use space, and the service bench.
I will be dedicating a series of upcoming posts to how these furniture groupings work in the interior environment.
Images: Photos by Karen R. White