1555 Blake Street
Sat and Sun 10AM–4PM
Architect: Kuwaban Payne Mckenna Blumbery (KPMB) Toronto
Architetural Style: Modern
Year Built: 2008
Photo Restrictions: No
The Sugar Cube Building is named in reference to its historic neighbor, The Sugar Building, home of the Great Western Sugar Company, constructed in 1906. It was designed to fit into the historic district with its exterior elements.
The Sugar Cube is a modern ten story structure, a building-within-a-building, with retail on the first floor, offices on floors two through four, and residential apartments on floors five through ten. The building is a grayish brick mini-towers setting, wrapped by two lower structures in blond brick, and it bears contrasting colors to delineate different sections of the building. The building garnered approval from the Lower Downtown Historic Guidelines and Review Committees for its fusion of historical context and current design, development, and economic criteria.
The Sugar Cube Building features a central ten-story volume in manganese-colored brick and two building volumes wrapped around its base, one rising four stories and the other six stories, both in buff brick. The six-story portion on the 16th Street Mall wraps around the base volume in a way that relates specifically to the wrapping of the adjacent Sugar Building's ornamental façade around the corner against the laneway, and then is brought to a full stop, establishing a clear hierarchy through the articulation of a zone addressing the main street. The transition between commercial office and residential spaces at the top of the fourth floor is marked by deeper setback of operable glazed windows within the 16th Street masonry façade. The 16th Street façade in turn references one of the mid-bands within the façade of the Sugar Building. The top of the parapet of Sugar Cube is set at a height that aligns with the underside of the upper cornice of the Sugar Building. The roof of the masonry base buildings on the 16th Street Mall and Blake Street provide generous outdoor terraces for residential units on the 5th and 7th floors. The upper floors (five through ten) are set back from the facades with smooth cladding to match the changing sky color. The setback also allows for balconies to punctuate the facades.
The modern structure is respectful of the surrounding historic buildings in materials, massing, mimicry, and site placement. The building also aligns in character and context to the other neighboring 16 Market Square Building, which fronts on 16th Street and Market Street, and was constructed in 2000.
The People and Recent Owners
The Sugar Cube building is considered a luxury apartment and office space in the historic LODO district, providing access to Union Station, 16th Street Mall, shopping, and restaurants.
KPMB Toronto is a Canadian architecture firm founded in 1987 by Bruce Kuwabara, Thomas Payne, Marianne McKenna, and Shirley Blumberg. It is headquartered in Toronto, where the majority of their work is found. Aside from designing buildings, the firm also works in interior design.
KPMB’s early projects were completed in association with Barton Myers, including Woodsworth College at the University of Toronto (1991) and the Art Gallery of Ontario Stage III Expansion (1992). Early on in the practice, KPMB won two major competitions: Kitchener City Hall and the Joseph S. Stauffer Library, which is the new central library for Queen’s University in Kingston, ON.
KPMB has a diverse portfolio of work across Canada, the United States, and Europe. Early projects involved retrofits and infill projects juxtaposed with existing structures, including King James Place (1991) on Toronto’s King Street East, and the Design Exchange (1994), which is a retrofit of Toronto’s former Stock Exchange building into an exhibition space for design.
American projects include the Walgreen Drama Center for the University of Michigan, Sprague Memorial Hall for Yale University, and the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. KPMB’s current work includes projects for Princeton University, Orchestra Hall for the Minnesota Orchestra in Minneapolis, and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
The Lower Downtown Historic District, known as LoDo, was created by the enactment of a zoning ordinance by Denver City Council in March 1988. The resolution's intent was to encourage historic preservation and to promote economic and social vitality in Denver's founding neighborhood at a time when it still held significant historic and architectural value. The status granted by this special designation provided protection to the community's archivable resources and to the 120 contributing historic structures that remained after roughly 20% of Lower Downtown's buildings had been demolished through DURA policies in the 1960s and 1970s. LoDo's historic district ordinance includes zoning that restricts building height and encourages mixed-use development. It stipulates strict design guidelines for rehabilitation and new construction.
Guide to Denver Architecture, Historic Denver, Inc (c) 1999; denverinfill.com; archdaily.com; www.kpmbarchitect.com.