Thompson Hotel Pavilion
Located in downtown Toronto, 550 Wellington is a mixed-use development set amid a neighbourhood of historic industrial buildings and newly-built towers. Serving as a focal point for the amenities within its own site and connecting to the adjacent greenspace, the pavilion and its landscape also aspire to elevate the notion of the development site and its role in the broader city—embracing the idea that through designing a site to augment its public and social realm, and to enhance surrounding public spaces, the growth of a city can be equally of amenity as of density.
The crux of the design for 550 Wellington is the creation of a public realm that operates as a front yard for ground-level units, a plaza for commercial and residential tenants alike, and as a public square for the broader community. To unify these disparate functions, a continuous pattern realized in dark concrete and zinc filigree extends across the groundplane, its elliptical apertures punctuating the space with interspersed plantings of fountain grass and pear trees. Embedded in this datum is a reflecting pool whose stainless zero-edge periphery allows for a dematerialization of the ground plane, and whose integrated below-grade mechanical system allows for a seamless transformation into a skating rink in winter.
The pavilion itself is positioned along the reflecting pool and at the edge of the broad sidewalk. Its black aluminum structure recalls the silhouettes of iconic ironwork bridges, including the nearby historic Bathurst Street Bridge. The structure is composed of only five pieces, prefabricated entirely off-site and attached at their edges by subtle sleeved connections, a construction process which allowed for a careful and efficient stewardship of resources. The pavilion interior houses a dramatic communal table for the adjacent restaurant, but is freely available as a venue for personal celebrations, community gatherings and cultural events. Mechanical provision for space heaters permits the enclosure to function as a skating shelter as easily as a summer cafe.
The integration of intensive development into existing urban fabric represents both a challenge and an opportunity to the project of city-building. On the one hand, densification can result in a net loss to a city's collective amenity; on the other, the capital potential afforded by high-density building is an opportunity to richly develop the public realm. 550 Wellington reifies the essential role that investment in the urban ground plane, from basic constituent elements to large-scale public architectures, plays in ensuring a successful negotiation of these two trajectories in the growing city.