Developed* by ANDREA ENG
for Pacific Century Group
Best of show
*NOTE: Andrea Eng created the 500,000 sq ft residential project at 500-550 Queen's Quay West including this award-winning penthouse
Penthouse on the
Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects, Toronto
Marshall: The penthouse suite is a 9 out of 10.
Simone: It could have had more textures, be more tactile.
Muller: The penthouse residence is stunning, but I've seen that before. Whenever I open Architectural Digest, I'll see one of these penthouses.
Menchions: It's stunning. I love it. The effect is great with those clear lines and the pillar.
Everyone: We love it.
Best of Canada 2001 - Project Winners
By Martha Uniacke Breen
Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects, Toronto
Photography by Robert Burley / Design Archive
"A lot of people talk about minimalism and follow that whole philosophy," says Bruce Kuwabara, a partner in Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects. "But the real difficulty is to keep a sense of warmth and humanity." The 3,500-square-foot penthouse on the Toronto lakeshore that Kuwabara and his team designed balances strict Modernist ideals with the human need for warmth and comfort.
KPMB's structures are familiar to anyone who shops at Indigo Books at Yonge and Eglinton, has attended any one of half a dozen Canadian universities, or, heaven forbid, spent a little soft time in Kingston's Grand Valley minimum-security prison. The firm's long list of credits is crowned by seven Governor-General's Awards, most of them projects with Kuwabara's direct involvement.
For the penthouse, Kuwabara, partner Shirley Blumberg and Caroline Lee, Paul Rocha and interior designer Karen Petrachenko brought the two-storey space back to its bones. They started over with two central ideas.
First, they would bridge the visual transition from interior to open water by surrounding the two-storey windows in massive teak frames. Indeed, wood – teak, oak, walnut, maple – appears throughout, lending a natural warmth to the ascetic spareness of the interior.
Next, as Kuwabara explains, "We were interested in structuring the spatial experience." The layout was organized around a single, monolithic structure in the centre containing kitchen, bathrooms and a grand walnut staircase, with communal spaces such as living and dining areas arranged loosely around the perimeter.
Kuwabara particularly admires the staircase, which rises majestically, perpendicular to the entrance, through the centre of the space. "I don't like very steep staircases. The cadence of a staircase should always be easy and graceful. I love the rhythm of this one, with its uniform wood treads and risers."
The master bedroom occupies a mezzanine overlooking the main floor, so light, privacy and noise were issues. Sliding, shoji-style glass screens framed in light maple offer a choice between enclosure and openness.
Maple was chosen in response to the changing face of Lake Ontario. "In winter, the view is stark and very beautiful, but cold, so the maple frame returns a sense of warmth."
In fact, seasonal temperature variations inform the orientation of the unit as a whole. In summer, open doors to the deck direct the emphasis naturally toward the east. In winter, the focus shifts to the south side, toward the fireplace and the wood-framed windows.
A restricted palette of simple materials, including pale limestone, slate and stainless steel, keeps the eye focused on the simple geometric motifs that repeat through the space. There are the stacked rectangles of the sliding screens, the massive window framing, and the lines and planes of the staircase.
"One of the things we're interested in is the discipline, the rigour, of controlling detail. It's a real complexity to make things simple while supporting the client's lifestyle." - CANADIAN INTERIORS MAGAZINE
Terry Hui of Concord Pacific poached Pacific Century Group's concept by copying the project's name and even its musical theme subsequently in Vancouver. We trust that's because Imitation is the best form of flattery! We chose music as a theme because Richard had just launched violinist Sarah Cheng in Asia by sponsoring her visit with the Asia Youth Orchestra. The park across the street from PCG's project in Toronto was launched by Yo-Yo Ma and part of PCG's contribution to the City as Richard Li is also a fan of, from his early days of having studied the violin.
Pacific Century Group's project was much more subtle and likely much more profitable with its 500,000 sq ft project as Andrea Eng acquired the lands from the Bad Loans portfolio of a Canadian Bank during the recession of 1993-96. She phoned the Vice-Chair of the Schedule A Canadian bank at 11:30 pm at his hotel in Singapore! Apparently that story is famous on both sides of the Pacific. Canadian business people cannot believe that she did this but her bosses suggested she do so and even gave her the room number at his hotel! But then she also takes credit for having negotiated 900+ documents between three levels of Canadian government and the alignment of the Gardiner Expressway in Downtown Toronto at the foot of Spadina is due to the efforts of PCG's in-house Legal team in Hong Kong headed by Linda Pointer (an American educated Caucasian lawyer who lived in Beijing for 8 years and could do contracts in Chinese). Andrea was able to negotiate the deal from Hong Kong while working with a local and virtual team of legal experts in Canada ! PCG's strength since day 1 has been using technology and 'Think Outside The Box' and as evidenced by the following, is proof that our work tends to be a lot more sophisticated than most local developers because Richard Li is a global investor and works with a global team. The construction team on the ground in Toronto led capably by Cambridge-educated architect Gabriel Leung ensured the details of the building enabled the vision of Bruce Kuwabara and Shirley Bloomberg. Then Mayor Barbara Hall congratulated Andrea Eng personally for her efforts to bring Richard Li's money to the city.
So much thanks to Bev Howard, principal of Merkur who built the iconic King's Landing [ I ] and lent his EVP Stan Heidman to guide Pacific Century Group through the development process to achieve their dream on essentially what they had planned as encore to their development designed by the late Arthur Erickson. And for Toronto Harbour Commissioner Chuck Parmalle's encouraging support, with his pointers Andrea Eng navigated new terrain for the group and for her personally and became a developer and more importantly, recognized in the Finance Division of the Uppers for her sophisticated but profitable projects that make money. It was also IBM's first joint partnership in a real estate project in Canada.
Pacific Century Group enabled more than 1,200 man-years on this project and was the only developer in the marketplace taking on development risk at the time.
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