studio gang in windy toronto

marking its first project in canada, studio gang unveils its ‘one delisle’ tower in toronto, developed together with slate asset management. the tower is defined by its dynamic, folding facade which, as it grows upward, has up to sixteen sides. the distinctive form is the result of its design inspiration, the strandkorb basket chairs commonly seen on the blustery beaches of germany. these chairs can be folded and transformed to best adapt to the weather and shield beach-goers from the wind. the design team at studio gang translates this human-scale precedent onto its residential tower, so that outdoor terraces and patios can be enjoyed throughout toronto’s windiest seasons.

designboom speaks with studio gang principal wes walker to learn more about how elements of these basket chairs were translated into its one delisle tower, and how high winds shaped the design.

studio gang toronto
visualization by norm li

DB (designboom): what will be the experience of living in this tower compared to a conventional residential high rise?

WW (wes walker): I would describe it as more fluid between inside and outside, and more connected to the environment. we’re focused on user-comfort and bringing an experience that’s more connected to the outdoors. it’s less hermetic and sealed away.

studio gang toronto
studio gang’s ‘one delisle’ in toronto | visualization by norm li

DB: you explained that you took influence from the ‘strandkorb’ basket chairs in germany. can you describe the elements of the chair and how you translated it into a tower?

WW: the strandkorb is an object with a collection of components that can be adjusted for comfort and functionality. it has all sorts of features like foot rests, and a tray that holds your picnic and your drink. the most important feature for comfort is the large hood or shroud that can be adjusted in its rotation and its angle, to protect the body from cold wind.

in the beaches of northern europe this is really great, because it makes it possible to be outside enjoying the beach on a day that’s maybe sunny, but also cold and windy. it shelters from cold moving air, and it makes it much more comfortable and possible to be outside for longer in those conditions.

translating that to a tower, it’s similar thinking. by creating this architecture that shrouds or protects the tower’s outdoor spaces, we’re able to extend the usefulness of those spaces into the colder seasons and make it possible for people to enjoy a more indoor-outdoor lifestyle throughout the year.

designboom speaks with studio gang as it unveils 'one delisle' tower in windy toronto
visualization by norm li

DB: how do you test the impact of wind on the spaces of such a large structure during the design process?

WW: windtunnel testing is probably the most important way to understand the tower’s behavior in the wind. that’s not just about comfort of the balconies, it’s also about how the tower is designed when its lateral structure is really important. testing is an important part of the design process for many reasons. in terms of comfort, it’s important to understand the movement of wind, both up on the tower and around its base.

one thing that’s interesting with this tower design is that it has much more relief and texture — as opposed to a sheer facade of a pane of glass — which reduces the tendency of wind to downwash on the tower. so the wind is not hitting it and quickly swishing downwards, which means that the spaces around the tower at grade are also more comfortable.

the reason that this architectural approach makes a lot of sense for a city that’s cold and windy like toronto is that it works at multiple scales, both for the building users up in the tower, and for the public realm around the base of the building. I think it’s going to really improve on conditions that are compared to a more smooth design.

designboom speaks with studio gang as it unveils 'one delisle' tower in windy toronto
visualization by norm li

DB: what are what’s the role of the physical model making in your studio versus digitally or parametrically generated design?

WW: we love all of these tools! we like to work back and forth between them, there’s a lot of value in all these tools. we try to keep all of them present in our process and we try to keep current and look for innovation and new technologies. we also look backwards to the more simple tools that are still so powerful — these methods can inform each other. digital models give us speed and ability to analyze a lot of options quickly and to embed data and design constraints into the options that were making with scripting and things like that.

physical models give us the irreplaceable sense of scale. they help us understand the relationship between space and the body, and how spaces are reacting to materials in real time — there’s no substitute for that. physical modeling has a directness that really benefits our process, and teaches us how things are put together. that activity is essential to our process, and we love doing it. we probably do physical models more than most, but we really work back and forth between high-tech and low-tech.

designboom speaks with studio gang as it unveils 'one delisle' tower in windy torontopenthouse visualization by JORG

DB: what were some of the challenges your team faced during the design of the building?

WW: we talk a lot about the architecture of the facade and the outdoor spaces, but I think the tower is also really interesting in its urban design, and how it weaves together a complicated site. we’re engaging multiple street frontages that are quite different in character. we’re also engaging with other buildings, including one with a heritage component. we’re connecting to a new park and managing different flows of pedestrians, cyclists, vehicles, and residents with retail spaces and a public realm.

this is all occurring below grade and above grade. that was a really big challenge of the design, the way the towers anchored in the city, and really happy with how it turned out.