Monarch butterflies, recycling, culture and tae kwon do among her many passions

As well as incorporating “green” features into Diamante condo projects, Di Lorenzo has become an avid recycler and has installed solar panels at her home and her cottage in the Georgian Bay area. When a Monarch butterfly landed in her hair a couple of summers ago, it inspired her to donate $500,000 to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, to preserve a piece of Pelee Island land integral to butterfly migration. It’s been named the Florian Diamante Nature Preserve.

…Diamante has created a string of award-winning Toronto condos, including Domus, One City Hall, Phoebe on Queen, the Royalton and Two Roxborough. What all share are original designs that complement their neighbourhoods.

Di Lorenzo and her partners have never been afraid to break from convention. For example, there was an office building at the Royalton site at Bay and College Sts. While the easiest route was to convert the building into residential units, “the structure wasn’t perfect enough, so we pulled it down, which shocked everybody,” according to Di Lorenzo. “It was very expensive, but we preferred to build from scratch.”

Then there’s Domus, an eclectic and unusual – some said weird – loft project near Bay and Davenport with Moorish windows, which architect Attila Burka described as his “Swiss Watch.” The suites, of which no two are alike, have no hallways to maximize space.

“It was very complex, as Attila was creating from the inside out, based on client needs,” says Di Lorenzo, saying that every suite offers nice views. “A lot of time buildings are judged from the outside in.”

“When we did Balmoral, people made fun of us – ‘The design is too elaborate or you’re not going to make money’ – but I’m so intent, almost fanatical about the business plan that I’m good at mitigating any uncertainty that comes from any flamboyance that comes from design,” says Di Lorenzo.

“I don’t think people will want all these glass buildings – I don’t think they age that well, but romance is not applauded by reviewers in design.”

She sits on the boards of St. Michael’s Hospital, Canadian Club, Harbourfront, Tarion (until April) and a few special issues boards.

“It’s not enough for me, the day-to-day work I do. It fulfills me to have things like the poetry or meet different people from different disciplines,” she says. “I do have one defining criterion – the people have to really love what they’re doing. I’m not really good at people who don’t really care about things – I don’t have a tolerance for that.”

Read Tracy Hanes profile on Julie Di Lorenzo “BEYOND THE BRICKS: Julie Di Lorenzo” in the Toronto Star (March 28, 2009).

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