Batay-Csorba Architects reimagines the Precast Concrete Building that leverages advanced fabrication techniques and reusable moulds in order to move the project beyond just pure repetition.

Fact File

the Precast Concrete Building
Location: Liberty Village, Toronto, Canada
Area: 6-storey 32,000 sft
Photo credit: Batay-Csorba Architects
Source: V2com

[Misfit]fit is a new six-storey, 32,000 sqft office building situated on a small vacant site in Toronto’s Liberty Village. The building’s program is comprised of four floors of flexible office space, retail at grade, and a rooftop sculpture garden/event space. The proposal provides an alternative to the pervasive glass curtain wall project.

The first step was to study Toronto’s precast concrete project and its history in the city’s development. Despite the prevalence of this construction method, it’s been met with great apprehension; so often the mass-produced panels are organized in a highly rigid manner, producing a static pattern of solid and void. Designed with the intention of producing a continuous, modulated surface, the aesthetic ultimately results in a monotonous and monolithic volume. Combined with the weightiness of concrete, the building becomes static, and heavy - a dead weight.

the Precast Concrete Building

Looking at Liberty Village and its wealth of architectural character, the brick details found within the historical factory buildings produce readings of both continuity and discontinuity of surface, especially present around window and door openings, at rooflines, and along lines of vertical structure. Here, the complexity of coursing techniques becomes intensified, pronounced, and ornamental, as bricks protrude and shift in a variety of ways. Importantly, these details depend on a certain balancing act between elements - there can be slippage, but not too much. These moments of activation are important in comparison to the dead weight common amongst traditional precast projects.

the Precast Concrete Building
While upholding the paramount value of precast concrete’s economy of repetition, the [Misfit]fit leverages advanced fabrication techniques and reusable moulds in order to move the project beyond just pure repetition. The panelling system focuses on three main characteristics: panel-to-panel discontinuity, stacking and repetition, and tenuous equilibriums. Individual panels are designed hermetically without regard for the overall aggregation or adjacent units.

As panels are confronted with one another, their incompatibility is abrupt and glaringly obvious, allowing each element to be read independently against the larger mass. Individual edges and profiles are pronounced, reading not as a singularity but as a rough stacking of objects that have found their equilibrium.

the Precast Concrete Building

Furthering this effect, the corner condition becomes emphasized as a location where panel profiles are fully exposed with discontinuities clear. Apertures are created with the removal of units, a process divorced from the stacking logic which allows for infinite flexibility. The overall aggregation is produced through a vertical repetition where each row is shifted in relationship to one another. Here, similar panels relate imperfectly but just enough to hold together an overall sense of movement. This process breaks from the traditional strategy of repetition and homogeneity in the precast project, as well as the contemporary parametric practice of continuous surfaces, both of which pursue the perfect match and produce the monolithic volume. Here, the imperfect and tenuous characteristics of the Misfit produce new perceptual, formal, and spatial effects.