One of the Most Innovative and Integrated Design Practices In The World
For many years, Sam Mizrahi dreamed of working with Foster + Partners. It would be an enormous creative opportunity as a developer, not only, but also for the city of Toronto. Then, when he acquired the property at the southwest corner of Yonge and Bloor, one of the most sought after sites in the city, Mr. Mizrahi began to set his dream in motion. By chance that same year, after a series of communications back and forth with Foster + Partners, he happened to be in the same part of France as one of the firm’s lead architects. They met. That was almost 4 years ago. Mr. Mizrahi talked about the potential for the site. The vision was in the early stages. But the meeting seemed fated. And today, that dream has become a reality. Sam Mizrahi is a business romantic, who indulges his imagination and then uses his business acumen and meticulous planning and deal-making skills to bring to life a vision many deemed impossible.
Foster + Partners is an architectural fantasy. Headquartered in London, England, the global practice employs over 1,300 people on their “campus” of offices, meeting places and studios on the edge of the River Thames. The main studio is open concept with a two-storey wall of glass overlooking the river. Models of design proposals line the shelves and small divider walls between rows of architects. Collaboration between team members with different skill sets is encouraged. Environmental experts, structural engineers and architects, among other specialists, routinely gather to think through each project. The aim is to provide a seamless experience from inside to outside of a building. Architecture makes people feel emotions, and the designers at Foster + Partners understand how to create comfort, surprise, delight, solace and excitement.
The firm is a creative hot house. They are committed to sustainable design, and have led the industry with innovative solutions for cladding that can harvest solar energy and new generations of super-efficient wind turbines. Led by Norman Foster, who at 82 years of age is an avid cycling enthusiast, the firm has been a leader in neo-futuristic and sustainable design for nearly four decades. With projects on six continents, they have completed over 50 projects in London, England, and in the last 20 years, have become responsible for the capital’s modern skyline. From galleries to office spaces to bridges, residences and private yachts, they have designed every conceivable kind of space and structure on the planet. But they’re not limited to thinking only about Earth. Foster + Partners has worked with international space agencies to design lunar habitations as well as habitations for Mars that would be created with 3-D printed modular by pre-programmed semi-autonomous robots.
“The One raises the benchmark for Toronto,” says Giles Robinson, lead architect on the project. Designer of the noteworthy Great Court at the British Museum in London, a stunning intervention with an existing, older structure, Mr. Robinson worked closely with William Gordon, an architect who specializes in towers, to create The One as an iconic tower for Toronto. “Sam felt that there was a similarity and predictability about the towers that have been built in Toronto,” Mr. Robinson says. “ So he was very passionate about designing something unique. He felt the site deserved it.”
The firm had worked in Canada before – in Calgary on The Bow, and on smaller projects in Toronto. The opportunity to help shape the skyline of North America’s fourth largest city was one they took seriously. “Architects are excited to work in Toronto because it is a city that is quickly reshaping its skyline,” says Mr. Gordon. “The exciting thing about this project is that it’s the tallest building in Canada and it meets the ground with a very great lightness. The whole building meets the ground on eight columns and that allows us to have a clear span of space at the bottom.”
Working with Mr. Mizrahi, the team were not easily satisfied and continued to develop design ideas until they found the one that expressed the confidence of the country and allowed for unprecedented spaces for both living, dining and retail.
“Until something is done, people think it is impossible to do,” says Mr. Mizrahi. “There are risks in doing what has not been done before. But when you do, when you work hard to make it happen, you can inspire others to do the same. I think Toronto is ready for it. And I think that what we are doing with The One will change the direction of what will happen next. We’re paving the way for future, exciting development. Success to me is seeing more of these kinds of developments that shoot for new heights and take people out of their comfort zone.”