Started by Babak Eslahjou, Charles Gane, and Deni Poletti in 1994, the Toronto-based CORE Architects was launched with the purpose of bringing new vision to Toronto’s architectural community and city spaces. At that time, the local market had been in a deep recession with Toronto having a large number of abandoned buildings. CORE Architects’ Camden Lofts was the firm’s first project in cooperation with Urban Capital, bringing forth the new belief that the de-industrialized parts of cities could come alive again as vibrant urban spaces.
“This was A very successful project for us coming out of the gate. This project had a tremendous impact on Toronto’s urban landscape. Camden and the surrounding area is one of the hottest parts of the city today,” says Eslahjou, whose design expertise and knowledge of global architecture guided many of CORE’s successful residential, commercial and institutional projects. In the past 15 years CORE Architects participated on 53 projects located between Bloor Street and Lakeshore Boulevard, and from Dufferin Street and Don Valley River.
Supported by strong Canadian economy and comparatively cheap prices, the construction sector in Toronto has been one of the most sweltering in North America for the past decade. “The condominiums in Toronto run at about $600 per square foot, while say in Paris, the cost is between $1,500 and $4,000 per square foot. You can see that Toronto is generally a very attractive place in terms of its economy, but also in terms of being a tolerant and welcoming city. That’s why there is an influx of immigrants and money to Toronto,” says Eslahjou.
This continuous upswing in Toronto’s construction has been providing CORE Architects with many opportunities to show off its skills, designing buildings that are desirable to the customers while making sense from the investors’ perspective. The firm strives for balance between the design and the needs of the market, making sure that while the designs remain unique and creative, they do not infringe on the fabric of the neighbourhoods and skyline of the city. The firm does not simply focus on providing singularly best, most original and lavish designs, but considers the city skyline as a whole, introducing suitable designs into the fabric of the city.
“It is true that the market is always looking for fresh ideas, but we can’t have the whole city made out of iconic buildings. We have to have iconic buildings, but also a skyline, buildings that establish a fabric for the city. This is a very delicate balance. What we do best is understand to what level to take the design, and what kind of designs will satisfy the market’s search for fresh ideas, consider the budgets for the investors, and give the end users something to appreciate. This is the balance which we focus on.”
“Buildings need to frame streets, respond to the sidewalks and so on. If you look at Paris, there was a set of rules for a period of time that all buildings would look the same, creating a uniform fabric. Building in modern day Toronto, architects enjoy a wide range of flexibility than say in they would in 18th century Paris and that is also the result of a more complex world,” says Eslahjou.
With customer push towards green technologies and efficiencies, CORE Architects is committed to incorporating environmental sustainability into planning, design and construction, incorporating initiatives that minimize resource consumption, optimize building performance, and promote the health of the occupants. The construction process can also be an enormous polluter, and the firm also works to limit this impact by considering designs and specifications that make best use of resources and materials. To accommodate the market CORE currently has five urban residential projects pursuing LEED certification: One Park West (gold), Central (silver), Six50 King (silver), 500 Wellington (certified) and M5V (gold).
CORE Architects has become a well-recognized architectural brand, and the firm plans to focus on serving the market as residential and retail experts, and deliver this expertise right across the world. The firm sees its future expansion towards the Asian markets, focusing on the up-and-coming countries like Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines, while increasing its existing footprint in markets where it already delivered projects — the Caribbean, U.S. and the Middle East. “We will remain true to our residential, retail and hospitality expertise and will apply them all over the world. We see the residential game dominate as the world continues to urbanize,” concluded Eslahjou.
While the firm executed projects around the world (including lavish designs in places like Dubai), Eslahjou’s favourite projects remain in Toronto due to the grounded nature of these projects. Part of this fondness is the fact that over the years the firm stitched award winning individual projects and even wove whole streets into the fabric of Toronto’s skyline, and these will remain in our sights for generations to come.