Toronto has close to a dozen diaspora communities, home to Koreans, Chinese, Japanese, Italians, Portuguese, Jamaicans, Poles, East Asians, Maltese, Greeks, and Ethiopians. In this age of shiny new condominium towers, there is a tendency to see these communities as places left behind; outlier clusters of down-at-the-heel storefronts huddled along commercial arteries. Our position is that these areas of the city are important carriers of cultural identity. We envision an inclusive urbanism where diaspora communities are anomalous cultural islands resisting the homogenizing forces of the surrounding metropolitan sea.
Architecture can play an important role in the advocacy for diaspora communities. Economically, these areas need to improve the utilization of gross floor area. This can be achieved by better programming of existing space and/or the construction of additional space. Culturally, these areas can be strengthened by modernization that recognizes generational shifts, from bootstrapping of the founding generation transitioning to the social entrepreneurship of the next generation. Our project recognizes these dynamics and forces. We call our process of cultural observation and projection “The New Inclusivity”.
Toronto, Canada- The site is located in Korea Town (a.k.a. K-Town), a formerly Korean monoculture that is now home to an array of pan-Asian businesses. The site is a 15’ wide storefront on the commercial artery.
The client is an intergenerational Asian immigrant family whose hold on their single commercial real estate asset is endangered by rising property taxes and the vagaries of the commercial rental market. The pandemic has added to this uncertainty.
Our project is a renovation and addition to an existing one-storey commercial building. It is intended to transform a marginal break-even commercial enterprise into a reasonable asset. The project provides a solution to one particular situation, and at the same time demonstrates the positive role that architecture can play in the mathematics of community stabilization.
The program for the project is a 1,700sf mixed use building comprising a leasable commercial space on the ground level with a rental apartment and rental office space in a second/third level addition. Instead of organizing the upper level as a stack of horizontal spaces, the apartment and office are divided vertically into side-by-side two storey “silos”. Each of these spaces has ready access to an outdoor amenity, architecturally designed as a “box in a box” like terrariums inserted into the spaces. The terrariums are part of a strategy for achieving natural ventilation.