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A Game of Tetris

A Game of Tetris

The Tree House is composed of stacked boxes, which step out to create cantilevering canopies.
Courtesy 5468796 Architecture

Melding development interests with inspired design is no easy affair for an aspiring young firm, but Winnipeg’s 5468796 Architecture is, quite literally, pushing the box with a new residential project in Toronto. The firm, named after its incorporation number—5468796—has sought to inject a fresh take on architecture into its sleepy Canadian hometown since its founding in 2007. As the firm grows up, it is ready to expand its territory with its first project outside Manitoba.

The so-called Tree House occupies a daunting formerly industrial site squeezed between densely packed houses. “The site is extremely angled,” said Pablo Batista, an architectural designer with 5468796. “The streets in the [Birch Cliff] neighborhood and the houses follow that geometry.” But the firm used the angled parallelogram shape to help inform the three-building complex’s final shape.

 

5468796 stacked a series of boxes to create the Tree House’s massing, giving it a pixelated look. Two buildings contain lofts and a third is comprised of a series of L-shaped townhouses. “In the Tree House, we had a strong existing north-to-south geometry on the site that informed the offset massing,” said Batista. “The boxes allowed us to be able to push and pull the building, to be able to grow the building as it gets higher, giving us more square footage.” Nudging individual pixels in and out enabled 5468796 to make the most of the site’s area while providing upper units with terraces and rooftop gardens. “We’re always trying to get as much as we can out of the site. Every square foot counts,” added Batista. Each box is filled with floor-to-ceiling glass and framed with charcoal metal siding to give it a slightly raw aesthetic. 5468796 partnered with Toronto’s DK Studio to create light and airy interiors contrasting white walls with exposed plywood details. “We’re trying to go for a very simple, very refined approach to the interiors,” said Batista.

 

Each building is oriented around one of two linear courtyards that connect to the surrounding neighborhood and yield outdoor space for the units. “As the buildings stagger out creating cantilevering canopies, we’ve created these courtyards in between,” said Batista. “It’s more than just an alley between the buildings, it’s trying to create an open space that’s generally not present in a condo project.” Metal mesh armatures will be covered with vines to create a vegetated privacy wall. Landscape architecture firm Land Art Design is collaborating on the outdoor spaces.

The firm expects Tree House to break ground later this year. “This project is a big step for the office,” said Batista. “It’s one of the first major projects outside of the province where we are located. It’s been a great experience to work in Toronto.” The Tree House is expected to be complete in 2017.

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