Building for The Future By Understanding The Past


One of the most important aspects of building within established urban neighbourhoods is paying attention to what already exists there. The temptation some might have is to build as if a whole new chapter of the city’s life is about to begin. Of course, that is the promise of new and innovative architecture. Certainly, working with Foster + Partners, who are celebrated for their neo-futuristic and technologically-progressive structures, the goal was to make a confident statement at the intersection of Yonge and Bloor. But the discipline of a great architectural firm is to understand the context in which the new structure will stand. That means studying and appreciating that which exists.

The accommodation of heritage sensitivities and restrictions are crucial elements of a successful building. There may be defined bylaw parameters about what can be built – and what parts of an existing structure must be saved. And there are engaged local residents who understandably care about the character and integrity of their community.

Mizrahi Developments has considerable experience working in heritage communities, helping to create beautiful streetscapes that are timeless and elegant. In Yorkville, for example, a beloved heritage neighbourhood just to the north of Yonge and Bloor, Mizrahi Developments designed and built three adjacent midrise boutique buildings at the northern gateway to the area. We worked closely with heritage experts to use an architectural vocabulary for the buildings that honoured the design expressions of the Victorian enclave and its sense of place.

For The One, we had similar work to do. We have conserved, altered and integrated an existing heritage building on Yonge Street south of Bloor, built in 1884 in the Italianate style. The architects at Foster + Partners carefully studied surrounding building to ensure that certain design features of The One provided visual continuity with existing architecture. The height of the existing building at Charles and Yonge Street, for example, at the southern end of The One is balanced or echoed by a design feature on the tower.

This level of attention to detail and design sensibility are an integral part of the practice at Foster + Partners. They are well known around the world for their skill and sensitivity of working with older structures and incorporating elements of them into the vision for a new development.