The Moiré Towers

2012
Large Buildings Studio

University Of Waterloo
Arts at Moss Park dizzyingly layered with uses for all ages

The intention of the studio was to introduce students into thinking in a large way. In compacted urban areas, mixed-use buildings are logical solutions for demand of program in limited spaces. The Moiré Towers are an attempt to address the dwindling infrastructure within Toronto, accompanied by a need for affordable housing in the city. Aside from affordable and comfortable living in the city, a school, a library, a theatre, as well as commercial connectivity were components in creating this megastructure.

The proposal was on the corner of Queen Street East and Jarvis Street, directly west of Moss Park. As it currently stands, an Armoury is on its site. By overtaking its premises, the proposal is a gradient between the intense and dense urbanity to the west of the site, and the lower lying grain of the city to the east.

From this urban analysis, the housing demands transformed into two rotated towers towards the easterly edge of the site, conforming to the intense height the buildings to the east. The remaining public program stands at four storeys, mediating the height of the towers and the landscape of the park.

By carving a courtyard within the towers and plinth, a public space entered the design. Connecting it to the park to the west, the court became a thoroughfare and gathering space for the community. Utilising design motifs from a Turkish garden, a lush, quiet, and intimate space sparks interaction between the residents, students, and patrons of the commercial spaces along Queen.

Into the underground concourse, retail lines the halls as residents and visitors connect from the proposal to an extended PATH network towards the downtown core. The concourse is also the connection to the Moss Park Theatre, buried underground.

The Moss Park Theatre enters on the underground level, extending deep into the under layers of the structure. Theatres require complete control of its light and sound in order to harness and produce unforgettable performances. The sinking of the theatre was a logical conclusion.

The organisation of the Moiré Towers utilised a striated method. The most public program lined the ground and underground floors, whilst personal and private program extended upwards into the skyline.

Because of the Theatre already on site, a public arts school quickly came as a design decision. The Queen Street School for the Performing Arts is not the first of its kind, but it is the first to integrate itself immediately into the site of the proposal. Dance studios line the second floor of the school, where students study introductory courses into dance, covering styles from ballet, to jazz, to contemporary.

Upwards to the third floor, band halls overlook the park. Students sit in acoustically engineered spaces with high ceilings as they hone their craft of instrumental and vocal music. With the illuminated sky flooding into these grand halls, the surroundings inspire students to bring the gift of music to the world.

Continuing upwards, art studios line the top floors. Focussing on both traditional and applied arts, drawing, painting, and ceramics studios are courses for students to find their artistic voice. Looking outward to the park on the fourth floor, the heavens beam into the studios.

The Jarvis Public Library spans the ground and underground floors, facing the Turkish Garden. Readers are encouraged to take refuge in the serene garden or in the cozy underground reading rooms to embark on their literary journey. The library offers a contrast of lighting quality for differing types of readers and dreamers. Two double spiral staircases connect the two floors together, whilst interlinking the city beyond the limits into the courtyard the library faces.

Another component of the Moiré Towers is to encourage creative professionals to enrich the community on site. Three variations of LIV/WRK units are available on the complex. These units are Studio Lofts with workspaces on the ground floor, catering to creative entrepreneurs, performers and practitioners, as well as artisans who require their own studio space. Appropriately, ‘Storefront’, ‘Townie’, and ‘Studio’, are their respective names.

The Studio Unit stands in the bridge portion of the complex. They stand behind a perforated screen protecting the units from the harsh rays of the sun, and maintaining privacy for artistic tenants. On the lower level of the units, a small kitchen is located under the mezzanine, while an open studio space with a work sink is in the open area. A loft designed for living is above, free for artists to work and live inside a piece of their own world.

Upward to the towers, a varying mix of units caters to different groups and types of people. Units range from studio, one, two, and three bedroom apartments. One-bedroom apartments are perfectly suited to couples, with a bedroom opening directly into an ensuite.

Three bedroom units are best suited for families. Large common spaces encourage families to gather, and to spend quality time with one another. Tucked to the sides, bedrooms are smaller in proportion to further this encouragement. These larger units are more frequent on the upper floors.

Two bedroom units are best suited for small families or young couples hoping to start their own. Privacy is an important aspect, with bedrooms tucked away from the larger, common spaces. While private, these units are still proportioned and suitable for inviting guests.

The Moiré Towers is an ambitious project to promote communal living in the heart of Moss Park. By placing many community amenities on one site, the hope is to encourage interaction between residents, visitors, and vendors.

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© Dennis Tang 2017