We believe that we can instigate positive change and transformation by bringing design to areas where it is often ignored, and we look for opportunities in every project to re-examine conventional solutions. Our firm believes housing is a core infrastructural issue and recognize that the development model is greatly responsible for bringing architecture to the mass market. For better or worse, this model shapes how a majority of Canadians interface with their built environment daily. Our practice recognizes the value and opportunity in working within these existing development networks. Studio JCI endeavors to create impactful contributions to the built environment by entering development networks at a variety of scales to understand value across multiple metrics and leverage our knowledge and expertise to expand our sphere of influence. Each project, regardless of programme, budget, or scope, is approached as an opportunity to achieve these goals while delivering outstanding results to our clients. Designs are context driven with location used as a catalyst to explore regional identity. Vernacular techniques and intelligent use of materials create projects that embrace their context. While residential programs have been the primary focus of our practice, we strive to rigorously examine the physical, urban and sociocultural context of every project. Our projects have grown from the scale of a single lot to operating at the scale of a street, avenue, municipality and broader social community.
Some of our earliest work was at the single-family home scale which serves as an entry point to the speculative housing market. Projects at this scale have and continue to allow us to test design principles at a micro level and receive responsive feedback with regards to the construction process and the end user. Our Leaside home series represents the development of a housing prototype. Sharing repetitive massing forms and a common material palette, these homes offer a compromise to the historicist, modern dichotomy that characterizes infill projects in Toronto suburbs. The visual style takes vernacular cues from its midtown Toronto setting and is characterized by pitched roofs, cedar shakes, and warm wood accents. Three successive projects allowed for an iterative process of experimentation with these forms and components. While the portfolio of the firm has shifted and grown in the past decade, this scale of project still plays a critical role in our practice. Completed in 2018, our Atrium House is an example of our evolving approach to the typology. The design is an illustration of compromise between aesthetics and real estate market demands in the case of a house without a specific client with a personal design brief. The signature moments of the project are used to leverage maximum value. The massing from the street with its exaggerated projecting and receding volumes disguise the presence of a three-storey volume atop a street-facing garage and create the perception of a two-storey elevation. The primary internal gesture is a central atrium that frames the feature entertaining kitchen. The requirement for maximum square footage and a focal point kitchen are served by design decisions that add ancillary benefits in the form of a more sympathetic street presence and daylight to secondary floor areas. As a firm, this scale of project offers opportunities to hone an aesthetic style and engage in one to one level details. Our ability to disseminate and reach a larger market while engaging with urban issues occurred with a transition to projects that operate at the scale of a street and fulfill the “missing middle” housing issue in Toronto.
Toronto is a city that is rapidly growing but only selectively densifying. We identified two typologies for densification appropriate to the residential character of Toronto’s residential neighborhood streets; single lot intensifications and small-scale lot assemblies. Our Midtown Triplex project takes an existing single detached brick residence in an established neighborhood context and through a combination of addition and renovation produces a spacious 2-storey residence located above two high quality rental suites. The integration of the new addition into the existing urban fabric was a key design consideration. Existing brick was restored and repurposed and new volumes like the updated front porch maintain the formal street typology and cadence. The intervention is visually discreet but introduces important new density and diversity to the city’s housing market, while illustrating a viable investment model. A second example of gradual densification are our Riverdale Townhomes completed in 2017. The live-work townhouse blocks were developed on two vacant industrial properties separated by a residential building. The unique conditions of the two sites inform their massing strategy. Phase 1 is landlocked, bound by residential and industrial buildings on three sides. Phase 2 is served by a rear laneway and transitions towards an empty corner lot on a main arterial street. While Phase 1 is hidden and nestled within its existing context, Phase 2 is more open and exposed to the street corner. These projects acknowledge the economic realities of development without compromising spatial quality or architectural expression. They represent a sustainable model of incremental growth that is contextually appropriate and consider the implications of residential programs at an urban scale.
The next scale of projects deal with similar urban issues while combining multiple program types in complex urban sites. Midrise density is defined and regulated in Toronto by rigorous urban design guidelines. Our firm continually strives to innovate within this framework and look for opportunities to break from prescriptive methodologies. One strategy has been to engage in various types of adaptive re-use. At 1133 Yonge Street in midtown Toronto, this involved retrofitting and recladding a six storey 1980’s office block to add environmental efficiency and additional tenant amenities to breath new life into an underperforming asset. Curved glass corners and cantilevered balconies on the southern facing elevation create enhanced commercial real estate value without increasing building area . Under an office condominium model, we were able to work directly with investors and tenants designing interior office fit-outs, adding value in a full-service capacity. Expanding our scope in this way allowed for a more seamless integration of base building services into the office layouts. In a similar location nearby, we transformed a 3 storey office block into a six storey mixed use condo of retail, commercial and residential units. The complex program mix, the associated entrance and loading requirements, and a full storey grade differential across a corner site required careful treatment of the pedestrian experience at grade. Our response was to articulate the main street massing into bays that mimic the traditional retail cadence of Yonge street and create an entry forecourt that fosters mingling of various building users and pedestrians in a protected and inviting public space. This urban room sits at the street corner under a cantilevered glass and steel volume. The building’s structural system utilized elements of the existing steel structure and takes advantage of larger span capabilities of steel as opposed to more conventional concrete. In addition to the cantilevered volume over the entry, the residential fourth floor acts as a giant truss suspending the third floor of offices over a column free double height retail space designed for the requirements a major retail chain. Our understanding of the hierarchy of economic forces implicating the design, demolition, construction and phased occupancy of tenants allowed our firm to play a critical project management role through the life cycle of this project. In addition to these urban sites and development networks within Toronto, our firm has also brought the same sensibilities to the design of mixed-use, urban scaled buildings in smaller communities across Ontario.
A pair of projects in development highlight our work in smaller urban centres. Georgetown, Ontario is an exurb within the GTA that is experiencing a population influx paired with suburban type development. Our proposal addresses the need for sustainable density within the town’s historic core with the preservation, addition, and transformation of a historic hotel building into residential condominiums with retail along Main Street. The project is an illustration of our expanded influence as consultant in navigating heritage and community concerns when working in a smaller community. Similarly, our redevelopment proposal for the shuttered Gibbard Furniture Factory seeks to revitalize and expand the urban boundary of historic downtown Napanee, Ontario. The redevelopment focuses on reincorporating the currently abandoned industrial site into the town fabric, while introducing new sustainable strategies and technologies to create a net-zero development. The project incorporates geo-thermal heating and cooling and leverages an adjacent waterfall for hydroelectric energy. It was critical in our proposal for the project to function as piece of civic infrastructure. With an influx of new residents, the project can serve as a catalyst for economic and social activity. The proposal introduces a public plaza that connects the town, through the site, to existing public lands along the river. This became an indispensable component of the project pitch to business and community stakeholders. Shobuj Pata is another unbuilt proposal that illustrates a comprehensive, sustainable development model at a masterplan scale. The proposal in conjunction with Terraplan Landscape Architects, received an OAA concepts award in 2017. It features 2,300 dwelling units spread across 10 storey buildings on a 32-acre site on the urban periphery of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The design is driven by sustainable strategies from the ground up. The elevated ground plane is engineered to capture, store, and distribute rainwater via a system of bioswales and the building form and orientation, long and narrow running north to south, is designed to capture prevailing winds and maximum natural light. Each of these projects uses the residential development industry and market demand for housing as an opportunity to engage with broad social, urban and environmental issues. These projects have allowed us, as architects, to engage design issues at multiple scales and understand the economic forces that impact all stages of development. Our understanding of the underlying forces and desire to tackle larger social issues has spurred exploration of projects that allow us to act in multiple roles as both architect and developer.
Our firm has identified various avenues for delivering architectural services to the development industry and within those networks, produced innovative and high performing buildings that push a holistic urban agenda. We also recognize that there are demographics and opportunities that are currently underserved by the current development boom in southern Ontario. One of those demographics is the aging population in rural communities. Riverview Park is an assisted living campus and residence focused on the creation of community living located within 90 minutes from the GTA and Kitchener/Waterloo area. Studio JCI, specifically partner Jaegap Chung, has led the project acting as owner, developer and architect. He has orchestrated land acquisition and land transfer agreements, consulted with municipal and community stakeholders, and raised investor capital in addition to acting as the project architect. Our firm believes strongly that while delivering beautiful, functional architecture is possible within existing industry networks, we can more effectively leverage our knowledge and expertise by creating our own opportunities.
Our studio continues to operate on the principle of ‘highest and best use’. In each project we work towards a design solution that offers maximum value to our client and all relevant stakeholders. We believe that since housing is an infrastructural issue, this involves a commitment to larger urban and social issues even in primarily residential projects. We achieve this commitment by creating contextually sympathetic infill at the scale of a street, contributing to the public realm at the scale of a block and identifying transformational opportunities at a municipal scale. Our initiatives have continually grown in scale as we build our portfolio. The trajectory of our work positions our firm as an industry leader. We believe that, as architects, we have the ability and responsibility to retake a leadership role in defining the opportunities for growth in our cities.
 Rundin, David. "A Spacious Toronto Triplex Responds to Rising Urban Density." Dwell, March 19, 2015.
 Heinrich, Erik. "Mid-rise Toronto Project Stands Out, If Not up." The Globe and Mail, July 17, 2017. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/property-report/mid-rise-project-stands-out-if-not-up/article35709222/.
 Mays, John Bentley. "The New Yonge." The Globe and Mail (Toronto), February 19, 2016, Globe Real Estate sec.
 Proctor, Don. "Six-storey Condo Project Transforms Former Office Space." Daily Commercial News, September 29, 2017.
 Balogh, Meghan. "Napanee Project in the Old Gibbard Furniture Company Mindful of past and Future." The Kingston Whig Standard, April 19, 2018.
 Pepin, Frederic. "Napanee Developers to Turn 19th-century Factory into Condo Complex." CBC News. June 10, 2018. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/napanee-condo-development-factory-sustainable-1.4699341.
 "JCI Architects to Design Sustainable City in Bangladesh." Canadian Architect, June 27, 2011. https://www.canadianarchitect.com/architecture/jci-architects-to-design-sustainable-city-in-bangladesh/1000497280/.
 Mays, John Bentley. "When You Can't Build Up, Build Sideways." The Globe and Mail (Toronto), May 24, 2014, Globe Real Estate sec.