Ace Hotel Toronto by Shim-Sutcliffe blends community spirit and Canadian soul

Ace Hotel Toronto brings the iconic hotel brand's community spirit to Canada with a design by local architecture studio Shim-Sutcliffe

Curvy facade of Ace Toronto hotel
(Image credit: William Jess Laird )

For over two decades, the Ace Hotel has stood for fostering community, whether it’s in providing guests with an insider’s view into each of its locations, or welcoming locals to use its lobbies, restaurants and public spaces for work, play or however they may seem fit. In its latest opening in Toronto, the Ace’s commitment to this cause has been multiplied, not least in the commissioning of a new building, designed by the Toronto firm Shim-Sutcliffe Architects. While in the past, the hotel would usually co-opt an existing building and transform it into its own, Ace Hotel Toronto has been designed and built expressly for the hotel’s purposes. 

Inside Ace Hotel Toronto

Timber interior with curvy ceiling at ace hotel toronto

(Image credit: Scott Norsworthy)

Inspired to create a structure evocative of Canada to mark the hotel’s first home in the country, Shim-Sutcliffe Architects honed in on a material palette and design language that speaks to Toronto’s past and its present. The hotel is located on a peaceful, parkside corner in the city’s once vibrant Garment District, an area known for its red brick factories and warehouses at the turn of the 20th century, few of which remain today.

The distinctive brick, which became a hallmark of Toronto’s architectural identity due to rich clay deposits found in nearby Don Valley that resulted in up to 43 million bricks being pressed in the 1890s, has been adapted into the hotel’s red clay façade to remind passers-by of an era before green glassy highrises were a thing. Mounted in double-height panels that clad the building, the brick bestows the 14-storey hotel with a warmth and tactility, while effortlessly embedding it within the surrounding cityscape. 

Curvy interior of ace hotel toronto

(Image credit: William Jess Laird )

On the inside, the drama continues with a cascade of poured-in-place concrete structural arches that rise from the sub-ground level to one level above. Accented with steel edges, each frame terminates in an oversized knuckle that transfers the load from the hotel rooms above to the building’s foundations.

Suspended below these arches is the Lobby Bar, a floating tray-like platform that hangs from steel rods dropping down from the central concrete structure. The lobby is an inviting refuge for guests and locals alike, featuring a wooden butcher-block floor made from end grain Douglas fir, furniture created by designer Garth Roberts in collaboration with Atelier Ace, a white glazed-brick bar and floor-to-ceiling windows with views onto the park. 

Bedroom with two beds at ace toronto hotel

(Image credit: William Jess Laird)

‘Our basic proposition was to make a building that looked like it had already been there, and then to do an insertion into it, which is the lobby, to confuse that issue, ’ says Howard Sutcliffe. ‘Because there’s a slight slope on the side going south, we figured we would pull up and lift the floor, so that we could get decent light into the lower level. It was all very pragmatic but also pretty effective in the end. You come in and get a sense of all these different spaces.’

On the level below, two different staircases lead visitors to Alder, the hotel’s restaurant helmed by local chef Patrick Kriss, with a woodfired grill. Half buried in the earth but benefiting from floods of natural light, the cavernous space features in-laid brick flooring, bush-hammered concrete walls and banquettes tucked within the steel structural frames from above, creating a seamless continuity between both spaces. This is further enhanced by reupholstered vintage chairs, a captivating copper and black wood bar and Shim-Sutcliffe Architects’ custom-designed copper lanterns which bring a luminosity to the concrete space. 

Timber details at ace toronto hotel

(Image credit: William Jess Laird )

In the 123 guest rooms upstairs, the spaces have been individually treated depending on the layout, with a handpicked selection of art, music, snacks and beverages. Evocative of a wood cabin in the Canadian countryside, the rooms feature deeply recessed windows, leather-covered window benches, custom-made quilts by the Canadian artist Kyle Parent using deadstock fabrics, and copper headboards, tables and chairs by Atelier Ace. Douglas fir panelling not only frames each of the windows, but also the room’s entryways and various living areas, serving as a visual point of delineation while maintaining the space’s open feel.

Soon to come is Evangeline, the rooftop bar, wrapped on two sides by an outdoor terrace. ‘The fact that it’s a simple building that has a richness to it, I think that’s interesting and resonates with a lot of people,’ Sutcliffe concludes. ‘Ace has done some amazing things in a fairly crowded and competitive market. They’ve continued to do authentic work.

Natural materials at ace toronto hotel

(Image credit: William Jess Laird )

Tactile bar materials at ace toronto hotel

(Image credit: William Jess Laird )

Hotel bar at ace toronto hotel

(Image credit: William Jess Laird )

Reception at ace toronto hotel

(Image credit: William Jess Laird )

White tiled bathroom at ace toronto hotel

(Image credit: William Jess Laird )

Bedroom with box window at ace toronto hotel

(Image credit: Courtesy Ace Hotel)

INFORMATION

shim-sutcliffe.com (opens in new tab)

acehotel.com (opens in new tab)

Pei-Ru Keh is the US Editor at Wallpaper*. Born and raised in Singapore, she has been a New Yorker since 2013. Pei-Ru has held various titles at Wallpaper* since she joined in 2007. She currently reports on design, art, architecture, fashion, beauty and lifestyle happenings in the United States, both in print and digitally. Pei-Ru has taken a key role in championing diversity and representation within Wallpaper's content pillars and actively seeks out stories that reflect a wide range of perspectives. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and is currently learning how to drive.