youCUBE is an 18 unit housing development that explores the potential for density and affordability on a narrow, 63’ x 264’ urban lot. Located on the north end of Waterfront Drive, the project occupies a seemingly unremarkable site with limited visibility of the nearby river and neglected, industrial surroundings. With a modest budget and a background in custom home building, the developer needed a design that could be built using standard construction methods by residential contractors. In response, the project challenges conventional multi-family housing design with a modular and more affordable configuration of individual dwellings that goes beyond the brief to include extensive outdoor space and inspired architectural interiors.
The final composition clusters three and four storey townhouses together on a shared plaza, which is elevated six feet above the sidewalk to suggest privacy and security without disengaging from the street. The plaza provides access to all of the suite entrances and shelters a new driveway for vehicular access and resident parking below. Each unit culminates in a rooftop patio with spectacular 360 ̊vistas of the river and city skyline. Together, these two spaces lift residents above their industrial context, capturing formerly inaccessible views and carving a permanent community into a transitional setting.
In order to keep the project cost-effective, the design consists of two standard unit sizes – 18’ x 20’ or 18’ x 28’ – that each have two interior layout options. The first layout places the living spaces more traditionally on the main floor, while the other moves them to the upper levels for greater access to light and views. Similar to a house, the basements are cast-in- place concrete, while the upper levels are traditional wood-frame assemblies. The cubes are clad in simple white stucco that reflects light into the plaza and provides a modern counterpoint to the neighbouring buildings. In addition to streamlining the construction process, the condominiums’ vertical design also leaves more room for outdoor amenities along the sidewalk edge, incorporating pockets of green space, small patios and entrances to commercial suites that offer live-work opportunities for residents.
Inside, each unit is defined by an architectural ‘wrap’, a design element that sculpts the interior into a fluid sequence of open plan rooms within a spacious, light-filled volume. Touching only two walls at a time, the wrap delineates floors and mezzanines as it weaves through the space, creating dramatic overlooks to the spaces below. The wrap reacts with the walls of the cube by folding back onto itself, or continuing upward to form window openings. Ceiling heights soar up to 36 feet, filtering daylight from the top level all the way to the ground floor. The wrap becomes the mediator between the simplicity of the building’s shell and the complexity of living that occurs within.