Originally a neighbourhood grocer with apartments above, and most recently a bicycle repair shop, Cogs is a building that remains visible and affectionately familiar to its east Toronto community. The new owners prefer to continue its legacy by maintaining its shell and patina – and importantly its place as a shared community resource. The design challenge – when faced with adding a modern dwelling for a growing family of 5– was to create a mixed-use building that ties old and new together in harmony.
Unlike many lots on busy downtown streets, the Cogs lot is unusual, with its long side of the building exposed against a busy commercial road, and its narrow end facing a residential side street. It therefore enjoys more of a presence to transit, traffic, and passers-by than most of the city’s typical commercial fabric. The new Cogs provides a private residential entrance at one end of the building and a proper retail entrance at the street corner, so that both private and public tenants can enjoy total discreet autonomy.
The treatment of the project explores the use of expanded metal sheets as a skin that acts as a privacy screen in front of windows and guards. The rippled porous metal rainscreen provides privacy from the street yet allows views and dappled southern sunlight into the interior spaces. At night the building transforms, glistening with interior forms. At its midsection the building opens to an unexpected exterior garden space that offers a green canyon form enjoyed from the interior spaces that surround it. The project celebrates private gardens on many levels including a walled sun garden hidden by the original brick walls of the old shell. From the private living room, the patio opens, where windows once were, now are open air apertures creating a bright and private urban oasis.