Welcome to the July edition of the BNC newsletter! In our last incarnation we said that we’ve been busy and there is much in the way of good news to share. Read below for further details.
It has already been a big year for BNC. We celebrated our 50th anniversary last month, and we’d like to share that Canadian Architect announced the firm’s rebrand last week!
In the coming weeks we will be transitioning from Bogdan Newman Caranci Inc. (or BNC) to BNKC in honour of the formal inclusion of Jonathan King as partner of the firm with Elie Newman. We are about to write a new chapter and are excited to continue offering the full suite of quality design and services you have come to expect the firm, while ushering in an era of further innovation, sustainability and fresh ideas!
Tenders are out and construction is about to start on our Serra House project. Located at 226 St. George St. in Toronto, an existing facility owned by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto and operated by St. Augustine’s Seminary, Serra House is used as a setting and residence for those engaging in religious studies and philosophy in preparation for entry into the Seminary. A heritage house forms the front portion of the building on St. George St. was originally constructed in 1903.
The project includes a new 4-storey addition linked at all levels to the existing house, along with full renovations to the original heritage structure. An existing 1960’s 4-storey dormitory at the rear fell into disrepair and was demolished. The design addresses the growing needs of the facility through provision of all new upgraded student and faculty suites, along with a full range of common amenities, such as a dining room, Chapel, common room/lounge, library and classrooms as well as administration and support spaces. Once completed, it will combine an updated designated heritage house with a new modern infill addition that respects the site’s history and context while providing an upgraded experience to students.
Inner City Development: Building Within a Tight Urban Context
In an increasingly intensifying city like Toronto, finding the right balance between the preservation of open space while accommodating new development, intensification and growth, has become a pressing issue, and this was particularly true for the Serra House site. Given the specific characteristics of the site, discovering innovative ways of accommodating the program, while ensuring the quality of student and faculty life is central to a successful project.
The physical size of most urban sites, along with their often tight urban and heritage contexts simultaneously present not only challenges, but also opportunities. We relish the opportunity to work on such projects because it forces our team to be disciplined in developing creative approaches to design, resulting in exciting facilities on constrained and dense historic sites. We enjoy the collaborative process, with the client, of investigating multiple options for arranging program elements in both traditional and innovative ways to make the most of these constrained contexts.
A few of the strategies our team employs that contribute to this approach for creatively intensifying tight urban sites include:
- Researching and understanding the surrounding urban and heritage milieu;
- In-depth analysis of the program to uncover interrelationships and opportunities for flexible programming;
- Analyzing options for innovative spatial arrangements of functions;
- Considering all possible site areas and links including below-grade and rooftop areas;
- Entertaining ideas that may appear unorthodox at first blush but might achieve superior designs.
Projects that have employed a similar approach include the Bishop Strachan School, where over a number of years we have placed large athletic and dance facilities below grade, while still providing an abundance of natural light. The move resulted in the preservation of open space, created new rooftop recreational areas, and maintained respect for the heritage context. The design for the remaining above-grade academic components fit well in its surroundings and was wholeheartedly supported by adjacent property owners.
Our strategy included artfully stacking program space using below-grade site area combined with the insertion of new floor areas into existing above-grade double height space. The approach created a modernized facility that respects the context, while preserving its valuable outdoor areas. It brought together an exciting mix of music, art and STEAM studios in the heart of an urban neighbourhood.
At Royal St. George’s College, an all boys’ school on a tight constrained Annex site with heritage buildings, our approach to redevelop the site placed a new “black-box” multi-purpose performance space below grade; all new Junior School classrooms were added adjacent to a heritage structure; and an art studio was created in the attic, while also introducing barrier-free accessibility to the renovated historic chapel. At the same time, we renovated the labs and existing Senior School classrooms and their music facility to modernize them as flexible educational environments. All this was done while “greening” the open site areas to vastly improve the quality of outdoor recreational play areas (which had previously been asphalt).
Furthermore, the firm has extensive experience designing within Toronto’s urban core and its heritage context for many religious institutions. We have completed numerous projects for the Archdiocese of Toronto (RCEC), and continue to offer quality, innovative design coupled with the high level of client service that is needed for these unique sites.