W Hotels Worldwide, a luxury hotel chain by Marriott, has opened a new location in Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood. The hotel’s interior design revives the city experience as a series of “mises en scene,” settings created for a movie or theatrical production.
Located on bustling Bloor Street where downtown and midtown intersect, the design of the hotel is based on themes derived from the city’s current and historical heritage. The hotel becomes a showcase of local culture for visitors and guests.
To enable the hotel’s transformation into the city’s reproduction, it was essential for it to be connected to the city at the street level. The closed layout of the building posed a challenge, but the architecture and design team at Sid Lee Architecture solved it expertly, by creating a fluid connection between the hotel’s interior and exterior. The addition of an elevator accessible directly from the street was the result of diminishing the interior and exterior demarcation.
The designers used the building’s brutalist quality as a neutral canvas and accentuated the different spaces with vibrant scenography. Elements of biophilic design have been integrated with the minerality of concrete.
While wandering through the hotel, the biophilic elements allow for a constant connection to nature and give a nod to Toronto’s famous ravines, which collectively form an urban forest surrounding the city.
On the ground floor, the facade opens onto the street and allows for a direct connection with PUBLIC SCHOOL: the hotel’s cafe by day, and cocktail bar by night. The action is set around a casual circular bar, adorned with notched black marble panels that fit the context of the designer stores of Bloor Street, while remaining approachable and inviting, and chic yet accessible.
The redesign of the entrance invites the street inside through the integration of a series of colourful art interventions, inspired by the city’s own street art culture. The murals, signed by local artist Alan Ganev, take visitors back to the famous Graffiti Alley, a street art circuit stretching over 1 km (0.6 mi) in the Fashion District.
Located on the second floor, the reception area—also referred to as The Living Room—is housed in a glass cube. It is an urban oasis allowing one to feel detached from the rest of the city, while being immersed in a space full of local references. Its contrasting accents provide relief from the wintry landscape full of chills and snow.
Inside The Living Room, suspended grids, velvet curtains, and lighting resembling that from movie projectors give the impression of being backstage. The palette and textures, reminiscent of a theatre and paired with prop-like furniture and art pieces, emphasize the feeling of scenography and complete the dynamic atmosphere of this liminal space in constant shift. This is a tribute to Toronto’s thriving theatre and film scene.
A series of strategically placed gigantic tubes divide the area without breaking up the natural flow of the space, offering moments of intimacy throughout zones of connection and collaboration. A conversation pit set around a bonfire becomes a central gathering spot, while a horizontal mural on the roof designed by artist Kirsten McCrea offers a lively view for the surrounding rooms.
Accessible by an elevator located on the street, the rooftop bar and restaurant is inspired by the city’s multicultural quality, but also by the hippie culture specific to Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood. Mashrabiya-type perforated screens, hanging plants, colourful ceramics, and warm tones create a decor worthy of the tales in The Arabian Nights.
Located around the gardens that surround The Living Room’s glass cube, the guest rooms have a surprisingly unique layout. The space is composed of two distinct areas: one private and the other social. In a departure from the usual hotel room configuration, the bed is placed in front of the window and adorned with warm drapery, pendant lighting, and a deep blue frame that extends across the floor and walls. These elements stand like a movie set at the back of the room, but the perspective completely changes at the entrance to the room with the use of elements that usually belong behind the scenes, such as a dressing-room-style vanity mirror and a clothing rack. The result is an inviting and friendly area conducive to warm gatherings reminiscent of social outings in the city.
Spacious and elegant, the suites at the hotel take the theatrical themes to the extreme. Rows of light bulbs adorn the ceiling as an ode to the shining theatre marquees of Toronto. With a hot tub, with the dual function of an ice bucket, each suite is punctuated with luxurious details and retro-futuristic accents, offering spacious living areas designed to entertain the most exclusive and glamourous of parties.
Created for the client Larco Hospitality, the other project partners in the hotel property were the general contractor, Bird Construction; the electromechanical engineer, Smith + Andersen; and the structural engineer, RJC Ingénierie.