Home to boutique shops, trendy cafes and a mix of fine dining establishments, Ottawa’s Wellington Street West has become one of the city’s trendiest neighbourhoods. The village-like atmosphere and prime location just minutes from the downtown core and the Ottawa River have attracted developers like Sam Mizrahi to the area. The real estate developer is known for his boutique residences in Toronto, including 128 Hazelton, 181 Davenport, and more recently for developing the country’s future tallest tower, The One. His latest project brings him to 1451 Wellington Street at the intersection of Wellington Street and Island Park Drive on the western edge of Ottawa’s Wellington Village.
Faced with the challenge of working on a designated “scenic entry route” by the City of Ottawa, Mizrahi partnered with Page + Steele IBI Group Architects to design a landmark residence with the level of luxury his company is known for. The Toronto-based architecture firm is one of the oldest in Canada and has significant expertise in hotel, retail and residential developments.
BuzzBuzzNews recently caught up with Henry Burstyn, Associate Director of Page + Steele/IBI Group Architects and design lead on the project to find out more about the development, the evolution of the design and the inspiration behind it.
BuzzBuzzNews: Page + Steele IBI Group Architects is one of the oldest architecture firms in the country. Can you tell us a little bit about the company and when it was established?
Henry Burstyn: Page + Steele Architects was established in Toronto in 1926. A successful pattern of growth has led to a diversified practice, now in its third generation. The firm has merged with IBI Group to become Page + Steele/IBI Group, a multidisciplinary design practice with offices worldwide.
BBN: The City of Ottawa is home to several historical buildings and architectural gems like the buildings on Parliament Hill and the iconic Château Laurier. Did these heritage buildings influence your design?
HB: Earlier in my career, I was relocated to live in Ottawa. During that period, I enjoyed the city’s strong connection to art and culture and its role in shaping our country. I admired the many monumental buildings such as the Parliament buildings, Supreme Court, the Chateau Laurier and the blending of modern architecture throughout the city. From the banks of the Rideau Canal, one can see that many of the design elements of buildings such as Moshe Safdie’s National Gallery owed much of their architectural expression to modern interpretations of the local vernacular — its surrounding context.
When I was in Ottawa to visit the site for the first time, I immediately knew that it deserved a truly special building because it had a number of unique qualities. Being on the ceremonial boulevard of Island Park Drive linking to the downtown core, a gateway to the Wellington West neighbourhood, and having a significant green space at the corner, it was clear from the outset why this site had been designated for a landmark building.
HB: Having worked with Mizrahi Developments in Toronto on 133 Hazelton and 181 Davenport Avenue in Yorkville, Sam and I both understood that a large part of the success of those projects was the rigorous engagement of the community to establish the vision for the projects. We followed the same approach with the design of 1451 Wellington Street.
The original design was a project with timeless architecture which had more toned down upper floors in glass. The introduction of the copper roof evolved from the OMB decision which, to its credit, created a framework to better define a “landmark” building. At that point, our team engaged further with the community, and created a working group with members of Ottawa’s Urban Design review panel. By the end of the design process, a landmark building was created.
BBN: Can you tell us more about the changes that had to be made to meet the OMB’s requirement of creating a “landmark” building?
HB: All the strong features of the original design: the rich materials, the high quality stone for the ground floor, engaging uses of restaurant and retail to the street and park, a revisioned parkette, large terraces with stunning views were all retained and built upon as the foundation for the redesign.
I adopted a similar overriding theme from the Ottawa vernacular by creating a robust masonry building with a major statement at the roofline. Strong verticals were introduced to the body of the building to lead the pedestrian’s eyes up to the dramatic top — a three-storey streamlined and elegant copper mansard roof. The roof has a cadence of impressive three-storey dormer bay windows which will create a signature expression on the skyline.
HB: The most iconic element of the design has been reserved for the corner — the scenic entry to the neighbourhood — so that it can be visible from Richmond Road/Wellington Street West and from Island Park Drive. The corner is punctuated with a highly unique and identifiable architectural statement — a bold cylindrical copper shaft with vertical dormer windows terminating on the pedestrian scaled podium. It gives the pedestrian a clear visual marker as the entry into the neighbourhood and integrates the roof with the body of the building. The roofline and materials are integrated into the design to be the cornerstone of the architectural flourish.
The corner spire will provide opportunities for night lighting, creating a beacon for the entry into the area. It’s made out of copper which is a material that adds character and amplifies the overall presence of the building. It is also a material that changes over time and reflects light throughout different times of the day and different seasons. It turns from a rich brown patina to a much-admired blue-green patina over a period of time.
BBN: How will this development impact the Wellington Street West community?
HB: This project will be a luxury building unparalleled in the neighbourhood. The evolution of this distinguished site represents the culmination of a highly engaging design process with the participation of many stakeholders. I am very proud of the result as it will represent a significant improvement to the public realm, the community and will give this site the landmark building that it deserves.
The presentation centre at 1451 Wellington Street West is scheduled to open in November 2016. To learn more about the project, visit 1451wellington.ca to register.
For more information call 613 798 4663 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.