Ben Rahn/A-Frame Studio

On Midtown Toronto’s Harbord Street, a dense urban stretch gridded with nondescript structures, local design firm Superkül saw an opportunity for change. Tasked with creating a multi-unit residential development for a client who sought to make the most of a 90-foot-by-60-foot lot bound by zoning restrictions, the firm’s solution came in the form of a six-unit low-rise that offers privacy, light, and space—comforts often sacrificed with urban living—while also setting an aesthetic precedent with its geometric, black-and-white brick exterior with bold orange accents.

Ben Rahn/A-Frame Studio

Dubbed Harbord Towns, the 12,000-square-foot development that took the place of a former gas station offers three-bedroom townhouses composed of panels that were built off-site in a factory to help expedite construction, manage costs, and control quality. The project reached completion in just nine months. “When we approached the client with the idea to panelize this building, he was initially very skeptical,” says Andre D’Elia, principal at Superkül. “After comparing costs, we determined that building prefab versus on-site was just slightly higher, but the quality control and time saved is invaluable. We shaved at least two months off the construction schedule.”

Ben Rahn/A-Frame Studio

To enhance residents’ privacy, the Superkül team designed each unit as an independent structure, equipped with two unshared load-bearing walls. The void between units prohibits vibration transfer by trapping and absorbing noise in the insulated cavity. The design also protects against hazards: If one unit were to catch fire and collapse, the neighboring units would uphold their own load-bearing walls and withstand the flames.

Each of the units are stacked over four stories, and the home’s common living spaces are elevated to the second floor to take advantage of above-grade privacy and curated city views. At the first-floor entry, each townhome contains a garage in the rear, and a partially sunken office with a street-facing window that defines the front elevation. Fitted with oversized windows from Canadian manufacturer Alumilex, the dining, kitchen, and living areas on the second floor have 10-foot ceilings that add a lofty feel to the 2,000-square-foot units. Two bedrooms occupy the third floor, and the fourth-floor master suite maximizes daylight with a skylight.

Ben Rahn/A-Frame Studio

The interior palette and design was kept minimalist and sparse, canvassed by whitewashed walls contrasted with dark window trims. The wood floors are finished in a pale honey oak shade, and a sculptural staircase crafted from oak panels in the same hue warms up the space and establishes a graphic presence. In the kitchen and baths, custom Scavolini kitchen and bathroom cabinets also feature an oak finish and are complemented by porcelain floor tiles and Caesarstone quartz countertops.

With little room for private outdoor yards, the firm instead added terraces to the bedrooms and rear balconies off the second-floor dining rooms to maintain a connection to the neighborhood.

“Ultimately, our goal was to design a building that’s going to be very efficient but still hold an architectural presence on the street,” D’Elia says. “We wanted the project to start defining an identity and possibly become a catalyst or paradigm for future development along this pocket of Toronto.”

Ben Rahn/A-Frame Studio

Project Harbord Towns
Location Toronto
Architect Superkül,Toronto
Contractor Oben Build, Toronto
Developer Oben Flats, Toronto
Site Size 0.12 acre
Unit Size Six 2,000-square-foot units
Cost Withheld