The Hermant Building

Built in 1913 and 1929 respectively, the historic Hermant Building anchors the southeastern edge of downtown Toronto’s bustling Yonge-Dundas Square. When we started the project, approximately 100 years since its original construction, the building was fading into the background, overwhelmed by its surroundings. The design approach was not to compete, but to restore it to a quiet elegance and reassert its presence within the immediate public realm. The transformation of this art deco office tower included extensive exterior restorations, interior base building upgrades and retrofit, and 90,000 sq.ft. of commercial tenant renovations.

After decades of accumulating layers of materials and finishes, the interior became an outdated and overcrowded lacklustre space. These layers were removed to reveal a heightened ceiling and expansive floor space, exposing and expressing the building’s raw textures.

Client

HNR Properties Limited

Location

19 & 21 Dundas Square, Toronto, Canada

Start Date

2015

Completion Date

2023

Area

90,000 SF

Status

Completed

Type

Commercial

Renovation/Restoration

Team

Giaimo – Prime Architect, Heritage Architect

Loring Consulting Engineers – Mechanical and Electrical

Engineering Link – Structural

Colonial Building Restoration – Heritage Contractor

Walton GC – Construction Manager

Photography

Doublespace Photography

Revelateur Studio

Process

Our approach considers not only the past and present, but also the future. The updated layouts ensure future renovations will be less carbon intensive by providing base building conditions that require minimal intervention. The design process was not about claiming authorship, but about continuity and ensuring the building remains active for another 100 years. As one of Toronto’s earliest concrete structures, the heritage buildings are reimagined with refreshed spaces and renewed amenities.

Giaimo created a three-phase REVIT model reflecting an Existing Phase, A Base Building Phase, and A Fit-out Phase. By using BIM in coordination with all consultants, the process allows for the client to use the models for future maintenance and operations.  Additionally, we designed tenant controls and leasing guidelines, to help simplify building maintenance and reduce waste that accumulates from years of tenant fit-outs.

Sustainability

To avoid repeating the same challenges of the past, we approached the interior spaces in an economical and sustainable fashion, with circular design informing many aspects of the project. We started by peeling back the layers of gypsum drop-ceilings, flooring, and redundant piping that accumulated over the decades and understanding what could be salvaged. The original board-formed concrete ceiling and columns were exposed, serving to add character to the interior spaces. The concrete and terrazzo floors were also exposed, repaired and polished. Along the perimeter walls, the original plaster was maintained where remaining, along with the original windows and reconstructed sills. Where the original scope requested window replacement, Giaimo instead assessed the windows and determined that only 24 of the 216 required replacement, while all others were restored. We view all of this work as stewardship – conserving and adaptively reusing buildings that will outlast us, and creating opportunities for resilient and sustainable spaces.

This building transformation recognizes that the project doesn’t end; it will continue on through maintenance, disrepair, and new tenants, and it will typically continue to consume accordingly. But we don’t have limitless resources. Reuse is thus the core of this project. The transformation inherently leverages the buildings embodied carbon, and all interventions sought to minimize new material use. From the rehabilitation of the original steel windows, to the tenant fitout standard developed to guide future renovations and act as proactive conservation guidelines, the project aims to reduce waste – now, and in the future.  

Challenge

 

The client wanted an easier building to run – years of accumulated renovations had led to inconsistent mechanical systems in states of disrepair and a complete obscuring of the value of the building. At the ground level, the interior transformation has allowed for small, diverse retailers to bring activity back to the Square. Simultaneously, we created simple, flexible layouts to ensure the building can continue to adapt in the future. The project posits that the role of the architect can expand beyond the ‘completion’ of the building, to influence how the building operates in the future.

As the building is heritage designated, this scope of work was also developed in close consultation with the City of Toronto’s Heritage Planning. The building has a 100 year legacy, and this project aims to continue that legacy for another century: through an environmentally and culturally sustainable approach that seamlessly integrates the historic and contemporary. This moves past the concept of “end of life” and obsolescence, and instead sees architectural excellence as the ability to find creative solutions for the existing.

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