Woven into the urban fabric of its downtown surroundings, the Ace Hotel Toronto is a marvel of a building that plays with the concept of time. “One wonders if the structure has stood for one year or 100 years,” the architects, Shim-Sutcliffe, muse. It’s utterly new and distinct, one of the renowned hospitality brand’s first from-the-ground-up projects, yet it pays homage to the architectural history of the city, as embodied by its red-brick factories and column-supported warehouses. Soaring to 14 storeys, the hotel’s symbolic red-brick facade opens onto an ever-transforming streetscape with a curvaceous canopy that combines concrete, copper and wood — honest materials wrought into something significant.
Through this elegant portal — and the glazing that wraps the western elevation — one takes in the full magnitude of the space. A rhythmic series of soaring, poured-in-place, steel-edged concrete structural arches rise from below grade to a level above. Each frame terminates with an oversized industrial steel “knuckle” that transfers the load from the hotel rooms high above to the foundations down below. This muscular framing also allows for major feats of placemaking. To wit: The lobby, clad in red oak ribs, is hung by slender steel rods from these massive supports. Intended to feel as if it were slipped into an existing structure, the Lobby Bar, then, takes the form of a giant suspended wooden tray.
Below grade, the main restaurant, Alder, keeps the fire stoked with warm laid-in brick flooring and bush-hammered concrete walls, while the rooftop bar, anchored by two massive brick fireplaces, provides patrons with views of a changing neighbourhood. Between these two social spaces, the hotel suites feature Douglas fir millwork and ultra-deep window ledges for that cabin-in-the-city experience.
These moments — which only hint at the fine-wrought details conjured by Shim-Sutcliffe and Atelier Ace — are highlights of a place that feels specific in a way very few new towers do. Knitting the layered ground-floor spaces vertically, the three-storey mural Horizon Line, designed by Howard Sutcliffe and assembled by local firm Two Degrees North, makes yet another connection to the city. It references the way that water and horizon merge in sun-dappled glory at Lake Ontario, south of the site.
Team: Brigitte Shim and Howard Sutcliffe with Narsi Naghikhani and Blaine Lepp (Shim-Sutcliffe); Atelier Ace and Ace Hotel Group; Zack Glennon (Design Workshop Architects); Alterra; Cole Engineering; Read Jones Christoffersen; MCW Consultants; David Hine Engineering; BA Consulting Group; Bousfields and Stikeman Elliott; Cini-Little International; VBK Lighting Consultants; ANC
“One wonders if the structure has stood for one year or 100 years,” the architects, Shim-Sutcliffe, muse.