PROJECT OF THE YEAR: Biscotteria Forno Cultura, Union Station, Toronto

Guido Costantino Projects, Toronto

Photography by Riley Snelling / Arash Moallemi

The commute to the nation’s busiest transportation hub got sweeter with the opening of Biscotteria Forno Cultura, the third location of Toronto artisanal bakery café Forno Cultura, in Union Station’s Front Street promenade. Despite the huddled masses passing by the store, this is hardly a mass-market eatery. Indeed, the design mandate seemingly derives from high-end specialty-store interiors, where the challenge is to strike a balance between display quantity and quality: show too many articles and the place looks junked-up and down-market.

Biscotteria’s materials palette, comprising just limestone, teak, brass and glass, exemplifies discipline and restraint. This aspect, combined with the simplicity of forms for the custom display hardware, lends a feeling of serenity. These forms include the curved and straight brass-bar support structure for the glass display shelves in the middle of the space; and the super-elegant tall pulls, rolling on tiny wheels on miniature tracks set into the floor, for the drawers along the side wall.

Confounding bakery stereotypes of heaping piles of cookies, cakes and breads, Biscotteria presents its goods as a curated collection of exquisite objects in the manner of jewelry. “The way baked goods (produced off-site in Forno’s kitchens) are centrally displayed lends the products a museum-like reverence, the dry crumbly cookies seemingly transformed into small hard gems,” says blogTO. Except, museum displays have labels and Biscotteria’s goods do not, adding to the feel of exclusivity. The merchandise includes biscotti, Amaretti, baci di dama and pan forte. Even the coffee is imbued with stately ritual: each pour-over takes four minutes, and there’s no sugar, cream or milk. Not for the dashing commuter.

“In this minimalist space with a Japanese ambiance, meticulous detailing elevates the simple act of purchasing biscotti into a profound experience. The story behind this shop truly makes it the quintessential contemporary Canadian interior.” 

  • Danny SC Tseng, co-founder and architect, Syllable

“In contrast to the fast pace of Union Station, this small bakery provides a welcome respite that exudes Old World charm. The dark storefront is offset by a large central display made of wood veneer and impeccable bronze detailing, its warmth inviting the passerby in. This carefully crafted interior reflects the artisanal baking being showcased.”

  • Valerie Gow, partner, Gow Hastings Architects

“This project embodies all aspects of interior design: a defined aesthetic, a delicate treatment of details and the right balance of light, texture and proportion to deliver a clear vision. The result is a well-balanced design statement that does not overpower the artisanal food, which is the main showcase of this retail store. Instead, the space complements the Forno Cultura brand story by showcasing the company’s own description: “Unique, quality, hand-made.”

  • George Foussias, senior associate, design director Quadrangle

 “As interior designers, our work often inhabits quirky architectural spaces, but that’s how the biscotti crumbles. This project represents the simplicity we strive to achieve, creating beauty from the essential. This is the best way that form follows function.”

  • Annie Bergeron, design director and principal, Gensler