It’s More Than Brick (IMTB)

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    Axonometric of the building on site.
    Axonometric of the building on site.
    Cian Hrabi
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    Thermal section and design section through building.
    Thermal section and design section through building.
    Cian Hrabi
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    Interior collage view.
    Interior view
    Cian Hrabi
Author(s)
Cian Hrabi
Project Date

Toronto’s Downtown East faces a threat from an increase of expensive development and stagnation of community housing projects. IMTB builds deeply affordable housing and services for vulnerable residents of Sherbourne Street. The project addresses the housing and climate crises simultaneously - fostering community development and environmental improvement. 

Influenced by 1970’s infill urbanism, IMTB increases the density of the area while staying true to the low-rise nature of it’s surroundings. The project attempts to develop a strong community across scales, beginning with person-to-person interactions. Floor plates are small to encourage neighborly familiarity, and the site is split into multiple buildings to keep community groups small. The project acts as a small neighborhood built of varying unit sizes and building typologies.

Designed with a rent-to-own system in mind, where tenants pay a portion of their rent each month as credit towards a down-payment on the unit they have been renting. This model of long-term ownership is essential for a sense of home and agency over one’s dwelling and is beneficial to the landlord, providing a hassle-free long-time tenant, with a trusting relationship growing along the way. Each unit is unique, designed under the mantra of “they don’t all have to be the same, but they all have to be great.” Kitchens and bathrooms are stacked and near each other for plumbing efficiency, and the units are designed so natural light penetrates deep into every space. Beds are placed in alcoves with storage as opposed to bedrooms. This affords a more communal sleeping experience, improves the experience of dressing, and is incredibly light and adaptable for when families change in size.

Current sustainable architecture is predicated on a misunderstanding of energy, which presupposes all buildings to be closed and isolated systems. The current approach to design buildings is to insulate them from the energy around them and rely solely on internal systems. This project instead uses the building as an active component of its surroundings to harness and convert the overwhelming surplus of available energy. 

Massive construction, in this case using brick, maximizes the potential of a single building material to do as much useful work as possible. Designed properly, brick can be an effective building structure, enclosure, “mechanical system”, and finish. By using one material in a wall we reduce its complication, and can then dive into the complexity of the entire building. 

Radiantly heated walls are a direct connection to the energy of the space outside their boundary. When you feel the warmth of the wall you inherently feel and understand it in a way that you cannot achieve from forced air. For thousands of years, humans were heated either by the sun or by fire – I propose we bring a piece of that history back into our daily lives; because it is so much more than just brick.