The Rotunda Apartments draws inspiration from the details and materiality of the historic buildings in the immediate area, creating a modern building that fits in. The height and proportions of the project emphasize this respectful relationship. By designing with the context in mind, the building feels simultaneously old and new. Our goal was to create a building that feels subtle and sophisticated.
The variety of built and unbuilt sites surrounding Rotunda’s site informed the basic shape of the building. Blanketing 100% of the site with built area was initially explored –but ultimately rejected because it would be too lumpy and overbearing, especially for the smaller grained neighbouring buildings to the northwest. The final shape of this project has two separate small-scale buildings flanking a central open-air courtyard. These three volumes float over open-air parking, which is more pleasant and safe than a typical dark underground parking garage.
The massing of the front façade provides a smooth transition between the two storey heritage building to the north and the larger four storey apartment to the south. By aligning the building’s ground floor with the adjacent heritage building, the pleasant character of the existing streetscape is maintained and emphasized. Rotunda’s second level is aligned with the stepped back massing of the same building.
By pulling the building into two halves to create a central courtyard, midday sun will pass through the two smaller buildings letting light into the neighouring yards. Over time this project’s central open space will provide a planted outlook for the large apartment building to the south. The building’s residential units all face onto the courtyard, creating east-west orientations that prevent midday overheating while providing passive cooling through cross ventilation. Each unit has its own defined entry, creating a fresh rowhouse community.
Details + Materials
Rotunda’s details and materials also complement the nearby heritage buildings. The arched openings used at 440 Parry Street and the adjacent United Church inspired Rotunda’s arched and curved openings. Brick that matches other Victoria heritage buildings was used on the sides of the building, to give a finer scale and texture to the less visible parts of the proposal, which are typically finished with unappealing cost-effective materials. Dark metal panels, steel stairs, walkways, and windows further strengthen Rotunda’s connection to the adjacent heritage building’s detailing.
This project gives shape to James Bay’s community values. It nods to its neighbours while still being progressive, it is built with traditional high-quality building materials, and it balances personal privacy with quiet densification. The building’s unit variety creates housing for a mix of people, bringing new vibrancy to this walkable town center.