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Avling Kitchen & Brewery
Architect Magazine
Washington, DC, USA
Media, Architecture, Interior Design
Katie Gerfen
Date Published: 
Project Profile, Interior Design, Restaurant, Hospitality, Retail, Kitchen, Brewing, Remodel, Renovation, Daylighting, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Tapestry Statistics:
2020-09-11 13:59:13
2020-09-11 14:25:26
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Félix Michaud

The single-story brick-and-concrete-masonry-unit building at 1042 Queen St. E in Toronto’s Leslieville neighborhood has always been associated with food. Built in 1949 as an A&P grocery store, it has since served as a vegetable wholesaler and even an indoor bean sprout farm. Its newest life, after an extensive renovation designed by local firm LAMAS with executive architect MGBA, is as a trendy farm-to-table restaurant and brewery.

The biggest challenge for the LAMAS team, led by principals Weihan Vivian Lee, AIA, and James Macgillivray, was reconfiguring and expanding the structure—all within the existing footprint. The basement was excavated to accommodate a full lower level, and the floor in the center of the structure was removed to create a double-height brew house. Throughout, the structural steel was doubled to accommodate the modifications.

That steel was necessary to support the added weight of an urban rooftop farm that provides everything from salad greens for the kitchen to pungent herbs for the beer. “To convert it into something that would support a green roof was a lot of gymnastics,” Macgillivray says.

Looking beyond just supplying the kitchen, the garden is also a test nursery for different cultivars of ancient grains to determine which would thrive best at local farms. “The larger mission became trying to use the baked-in interest craft-beer fans have in ingredients, flavor, and provenance to shine a light on local cuisine and the need to rethink agricultural problems and opportunities in the food system,” owner Max Meighen says. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the roof also provided vegetables for CSA boxes, which supplemented the restaurant’s income.

The most public-facing part of the building is, of course, the restaurant’s dining room, and the team wanted it to be flexible: “It’s a large space that we thought could become a hub for the neighborhood. People are in need of spaces to do work in during the day and there are a lot of young families,” Lee says. “We wanted to kind of capture the potential of that for this community.”

To that end, the space was split into different zones, with low tables, zinc-topped high-top tables, booths, and bar seating. “There’s the idea of four different fields of activity—almost like a crop rotation,” Macgillivray says. And the focus wasn’t just on dining: “We were deliberate about having a lot of open space to accommodate strollers, wheelchairs, and multiple configurations,” Meighen says. Before the pandemic, the space hosted events from wedding receptions to lecture series, so the flexibility is key.

Light fills the space—both from large windows out to the street and into the skylit brew house, as well as from the pendant light fixtures that create a plane below the ceiling. The white concrete block walls are offset by pink-painted exposed structural steel, gray felt runners applied to the walls that serve as acoustical control, and colorful murals by local artist Madison van Rijn. A series of nonstructural wood frames help define seating areas and “play with your sense of scale,” Lee says. “When you have repetitive members that keep stretching and reinforcing the receding line, the space looks bigger.”

But not everything is new: The original terrazzo floors were patched with concrete and polished, and the existing wood-joist ceiling was left exposed. “You have to make decisions about which things are worth preserving to maintain the character of the original space,” Lee says. “It might have been easier to get a new roof, but it makes a huge difference to have that patina.”

At press time, Avling has reopened for outdoor dining in addition to its grocery business, and Meighen is excited to see what the future will bring: “We didn’t design the operation with a pandemic in mind,” he says, “but a multifaceted, flexible, and adaptive model was always the plan.”

Organizations Mentioned: (6)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Structural Engineering
BLT Construction Services
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
CS Design
Westmount, Quebec, Canada
Lighting Design
LAMAS | Lee And Macgillivray Architecture Studio
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Archiecture, Interior Design
MGBA | Mallen Gowing Berzins Architecture
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Architecture, Interior Design
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Feasability Studies, Building Services, Engineering, Engineering Services, Mechanical Electrical Engineering, Design Build, Leed, Building Assessments, Value Engineering