From reclaimed timber to indoor foliage, New York architecture and design studio Rockwell Group has applied biophilic design to Toronto’s ‘mission driven’ 1 Hotel. Jenny Southan

Unveiled in August 2021, the 1 Hotel in Toronto is described as “Canada’s first mission-driven hotel that celebrates the beauty of Toronto’s natural environment and offers an urban oasis in the heart of the city”.

Rockwell Group’s design concept for 1 Hotel Toronto was a response to the question “What if a luxury hotel was an inviting portal to the natural world, instead of a flight from it?”

The “material palette” for the 1 Hotel Toronto takes inspiration from the “muted colours of Lake Ontario and the contrasting tones of the passing seasons” and features reclaimed timber, native plants, board-formed concrete and local marble.1 Hotel TorontoThe lobby is a “warm and nest-like space” with reclaimed Elm wood flooring and shelving sourced from a dismantled barn in Ontario. It is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling glass windows that create a light box at night, as well as a feeling of seamlessness between indoors and out, says Rockwell Group.

The entrance is framed with a mix of granite and limestone boulders, maple trees, local plants, wood, and a trailing green canopy.

Behind the check-in desk is a stone wall with wood-like striations – carved out of glacial activity along the Eramosa River – that serves as the backdrop to an art installation designed by Toronto-based artists Moss & Lam.1 Hotel TorontoThe light and airy guestrooms at 1 Hotel Toronto feature sliding barn wood doors dividing the bedroom and bathroom. Rockwell Group added warmth to the Carrara marble bathrooms by utilising Hickory wood surrounds for the vanities.

1 Hotel TorontoA natural wood accent wall is added behind the bed, with a leather headboard. An art piece comprised of a fallen tree fragment, sourced by a local wood studio, completes the design.1 Hotel TorontoThe hotel also has two restaurants and two bars. Located in a glass-walled conservatory-like space with a vaulted wood ceiling and curved trusses hung with greenery, 1 Kitchen has a “vintage vibe” and sources all food ingredients from within a 50km radius.1 Hotel TorontoMeanwhile, Madera is an organic Mexican restaurant featuring sand-blasted textured wood, greenery, wooden dining chairs crafted by Benchmark, reclaimed “live edge wood” tabletops and handmade vessels.1 Hotel TorontoHarriet’s is a rooftop hotspot featuring an open concept sushi bar with sliding glass walls and a retractable roof. The design details recall Toronto’s flora and fauna, with a woven rope ceiling interspersed between wood beams, reclaimed Elm wood flooring and leather and lambskin accents.1 Hotel TorontoRockwell Group’s founder, David Rockwell, says “We have long admired 1 Hotels’ sustainable and eco-friendly ethos, and we are thrilled to have been given the opportunity to design the new 1 Hotel Toronto with a biophilic emphasis. Our vision for the hotel invites guests to celebrate Toronto’s ecology through materiality and locally-made artwork.”1 Hotel TorontoSince its launch in 2015, the 1 Hotels brand has been spearheading biophilic design, as well as “sustainable luxury” with a host of initiatives such as clothes donations and filtered water taps in rooms. So it’s interesting to see how this new property compares to predecessors such as the 1 Hotel Miami South Beach and New York Central Park.

The 1 Hotel Toronto is powered by Ontario’s renewable energy systems and expects to divert over 85 per cent of waste from landfills. On-site composting turns all organic wet waste into reusable soil for the 3,300 plants on property and multiple gardens.

Meanwhile amenities in the 112 rooms include heated floors, plants, organic cotton linens, yoga mats and customized organic bath products. 1 Hotel Toronto1 Hotels also has properties in New York’s Brooklyn, LA’s West Hollywood and Sanya in China. Forthcoming openings include locations in Cabo (Mexico), Elounda Hills (Crete), Hanalei Bay (Kauai), Mayfair (London), Melbourne, Mission Bay (San Francisco) and Paris.

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