To call Sayf Hassan enthusiastic about the design of The Tree House would be a vast understatement.
Hassan, the principal of Toronto boutique developer Symmetry, thinks the stacked townhouse project is one of the most exciting designs his company has ever done and the most exciting design the Ontario development industry has seen in a long time.
He has Sasa Radulovic and his firm, 5468796 Architecture, to thank for the boundary-pushing design. Radulovic’s award-winning firm is not well known east of its homebase in Winnipeg, but his work with Symmetry on The Tree House is sure to change that.
The development, which Symmetry is building as a collaboration with Engine Developments and Fortress Real Developments, will consist of 39 high design stacked towns at 2535 Gerrard Street East in Toronto’s Birchcliff neighbourhood. Although the design of the three buildings that comprise Tree House is undeniably bold and imaginative, it’s rooted in a more traditional notion that residential architecture can foster community and provide a safe and friendly atmosphere where families will feel comfortable raising their kids.
The three buildings will pivot around an open green space that will be conducive to interaction among future residents. The homes themselves will be generously-sized two- and three-bedroom layouts.
“It was always about interstitial spaces that allow for people to meet as opposed to putting residents into an apartment-style building,” said Radulovic when asked about how his firm approached the early design for the site.
“The initial planner’s take on the site was to do back-to-back housing with everyone facing away from each other. In that case, you’re not trying to foster a sense of belonging to something, you’re just part of a row. We always wanted to invert that scheme and create a space in the middle of the block for people to use as a common, public space. That’s very conducive to fostering a sense of belonging to a place.”
“I think that low-rise in Toronto has done a very poor job of creating that sense of community,” added Hassan.
“In a typical GTA townhome development, it’s all about isolating the units from each other, with little thought given to the organization of the public spaces on the site. The ambition of Tree House is to elevate the stacked townhome format by creating an intimate community via a thoughtful arrangement of exterior spaces — both communal and private.”
While this is Symmetry’s first time working with 5468796, Hassan and Radulovic are clearly on the same page when it comes to what urban residential design should accomplish and what shape that takes on a site.
The two have social media to thank, in part, for their first encounter.
At the insistence of his PR team, Radulovic’s firm became active on Twitter during the summer of 2013. At the same time Stephen Job, then communications manager at Symmetry, was bolstering the developer’s Twitter presence. Hassan had also asked Job to locate architecture firms that would fit Symmetry’s design aesthetic that were relatively unknown to the Toronto development scene.
Job showed Hassan the 5468796 portfolio and he took an immediate interest in the firm. Although 5468796 had designed a significant number of forward-thinking condo and townhouse developments in Winnipeg, they’d yet to break into the Toronto market.
Radulovic was in Toronto when the two companies eventually connected through Twitter so he stopped by to introduce himself.
Hassan and Radulovic met that day at the presentation centre for Symmetry’s Queen West development, Origami Lofts.
“We connected and I thought our design philosophies were in sync,” said Hassan.
“Their work was consistently incredible across each project. I thought that the first opportunity that I get, I would have Sasa’s firm submit some concepts for a site.”
Symmetry didn’t have anything for 5468796 to immediately sink its teeth into, but the firm was top-of-mind when Hassan was ready to move forward with what is now The Tree House in early 2014.
Along with 5468796, Hassan had two well-known Toronto architecture firms submit concepts for the Tree House site. According to Hassan, the concepts Sasa and his team came up with were head and shoulders above the other submissions.
The Symmetry-5468796 partnership seems like an urban design match made in heaven and both the industry and the general public seem to agree.
Hassan described the reaction to the design as strongly positive and has the registration numbers to prove it. With complementary interiors designed by the equally forward-thinking DK Studios, The Tree House has been very well-received ahead of its upcoming launch, expected for late March.
BuzzBuzzHome News will have more from our chat with Sayf Hassan and Sasa Radulovic in the coming weeks, but until then, be sure to register for The Tree House to stay in the loop on the new stacked townhouse development.
For more information call 647 560 4454.