In Canada, Batay-Csorba Architects has sought to build upon the rich lineage of the Toronto’s precast concrete history. In its concept for ‘[Misfit]Fit’, a six-storey 32,000 square foot boutique office building, the firm suggests an alternative to the pervasive glass wall curtain project that is common in new development. The proposed building’s program is comprised of four floors of flexible office space, retail at grade, and a rooftop sculpture garden/event space.
The concept is located in the Toronto’s historic Liberty Village — the city’s oldest settled district — defined by its industrial buildings and distinct brick architecture. In approaching its means of construction, Batay-Csorba considered it critical to remain sensitive to the historical character of the neighbourhood. ‘With such high demand to develop in the area, additional construction is inevitable’, explain the architects, ‘The question is, how does one add to this unique building fabric without simply producing what is already there, or reverting to a glass office building which so brashly departs from the character of Liberty Village?’
For Batay-Csorba, the answer lay in the city’s rich history of precast concrete construction. Taking their cue from iconic buildings such as the University of Toronto’s medical sciences building and many lesser known municipal and educational facilities, the firm chose the method for its efficiency and role as an integral part of the aesthetic identity of the district. ‘Perhaps (…) the time is right to revive this project, learning from the reception and reading of past methods, and exploring new ways to once again harness the liveliness of concrete and the efficacy of mass production.’
Keen to diversify from the highly rigid, static nature of other buildings of this type, the studio looked to means of offsetting the weightiness of concrete without reverting to glass and steel. The [Misfit]Fit building leverages advanced fabrication techniques and reusable moulds in order to move the project beyond just pure repetition, while steering clear of mass customisation. The facade’s panelling system focuses on three main characteristics: panel-to-panel discontinuity, stacking and repetition, and tenuous equilibriums. Individual panels are designed hermetically without regard for the overall aggregation, and without regard for adjacent units. As panels are confronted with one another, their incompatibility is abrupt and glaringly obvious, allowing each element to be read independently against the larger mass.
Individual edges and profiles are pronounced, reading not as a singularity but as a rough stacking of objects that have found their equilibrium. Furthering this effect, the corner condition becomes emphasised as a location where panel profiles are fully exposed with discontinuities clear. The result is a lightweight and fluid presentation, segmented but defined by motion. Here, the imperfect and tenuous characteristics of the ‘misfit’ produce new perceptual, formal and spatial effects.