Neighbourhood watch

In this issue, we pay tribute to a trio of “good neighbours”: two architectural firms and a designer who have taken great care, in recent projects, to respect, reflect and reinvigorate their surroundings. The three projects — a restaurant, a hotel and a bar — are hospitable in every sense of the word.

For the two architectural firms, the design process began with the buildings housing the projects themselves.

In Toronto, KPMB Architects took on the design of One Eighty Queen West, a brand-new, 15-storey commercial property at the hub of several distinct urban areas — the city’s legal and financial districts to the east; the Four Seasons Opera House and theatre district to the south; and the hip Queen West neighbourhood to the west. At street level, the architects created a vibrant restaurant they hoped would be equally attractive to opera and theatre patrons, the legal community, corporate clients and the Queen West crowd, as well as extend the vibrancy of the street east to University Avenue. Despite the danger inherent in trying to be “everything to everyone,” they seem to have pulled it off with Nota Bene — in part due to a vibe that is, in the words of principal architect Tom Payne, “friendly, inclusive, warm-cool” (“Three way,” page 20).

In Saint-Roch, one of Quebec City’s oldest suburbs, Bisson et Associs took an unloved 18-storey concrete tower — once a Holiday Inn — and made it into something cool. Maintaining the ’70s personality of the facade, the architects replaced the original, small windows of its 220 rooms with floor-to-ceiling glass. Long and narrow, with minimalist furnishings, each room offers an unrestricted view of a rapidly resurgent Saint-Roch (“Stay pure,” page 25).

Finally, Zbulon Perron turned a notorious dive in the Mile-End neighbourhood of Montreal into the design-award-winning Buvette Chez Simone — a wine bar as lived-in and lively as Mile-End itself (” votre sant!’ on page 30).

Nota Bene, Hotel Pur and Buvette Chez Simone: welcome to the neighbourhood. CI

Michael Totzke [email protected]