ERA Architects

Kensington Market Lofts Presents a Gateway of Colour to the Neighbourhood

The scaffolding has finally come down to reveal the brilliant collection of 17 colours featured on the east façade of the Kensington Market Lofts building, a public art piece created by notable local artist and area resident An Te Lui! Inspired by the culturally-diverse public realm in which it is located, it as a gateway to the neighbourhood.

Located at 160 Baldwin Street, the Kensington Market Lofts was built in 1952 by George Brown College to house their technical school, was and attached to an older red brick school building dating from 1923. The new addition was clad in glazed yellow terra-cotta blocks, which over time had begun to allow water to infiltrate its steel support structure. ERA has worked with the condo board on a long-term multi-stage revitalization of the buildings, including interior finish upgrades and wayfinding, as well as developing an extensive program of façade remediation.

It was determined that the east façade was at particular risk of future infiltration, and that a robust over cladding strategy would be required to protect the steel structure once remediated. Simultaneously the remaining terracotta blocks could be salvaged for use in preserving the original features of the building on the remaining facades. In addition to its functional necessity, ERA and the condo board viewed the proposed over cladding as a unique opportunity for the building to contribute to the public realm, and asked An Te Liu to develop a pattern that could speak to the building’s important context within Kensington Market.

An Te Liu’s concept for the colour configuration was based a pattern depicting the neighbourhood’s historic diversity, the distribution of the colours being drawn from an analysis of the percentage of those present in the world’s national flags. The significance of the approach is that the material sits comfortably within its bohemian context as it complements the existing vibrant-coloured awnings, shops and graffiti that energize the streetscape. The project faces one of Toronto’s most important thoroughfares, providing a landmark that will invite people into the market at one of its primary entrances. It is a physical manifestation and embodiment of the eclectic spirit and energy of the market.

Congratulations to ERA’s project team: Graeme Stewart, Max Berg, and Leah Gibling!

To access the recent Globe and mail article on this project by David LeBlanc, click here.
To access recent CODAmagazine coverage on this project, click here.

Images by An Te Liu and Vik Pahwa.