Connecting to architectural heritage on Queen West

Since opening nearly 20 years ago, the independent Drake Hotel in Toronto’s Queen Street West neighbourhood has become a cultural hub for locals and visitors alike, known for its curated program of site-specific art installations, popular rooftop Sky Yard, and groundbreaking performances in the Drake Underground music venue. 

The design of the The Drake Modern Wing expands the hotel eastward along Queen Street West, respecting and embracing the architectural heritage of the original building and surrounding neighbourhood. 

The principal south-facing façade, clad in a white brick handmade in Denmark, is a palimpsest or ghost image, with visible traces of the Victorian façades that define Queen Street West. The handcrafted bricks’ colour connects the new addition to the existing hotel, overlaid with a modern composition of windows and archways in counterpoint. These details are subtle imprints—a mere 40mm—which allow the façade to be read differently throughout the day and in different weather conditions.

The west façade faces the existing hotel and an open, rooftop patio—the Sky Yard. The masonry expression incorporates a brick lattice construction technique that allows for permeability, and visibility by connecting the interior public corridors to the rooftop scene. The use of red brick references the original 19th century structure.

The Rooftop Suite, overlooking Queen Street West, is clad in mirror finish stainless steel that reflects the sky. Set back from the façade by a large terrace, the suite cantilevers over the Sky Yard, creating a dramatic presence along the street front. 

A mid-block open air courtyard brings natural light to the bay windows of hotel rooms on five floors, achieving visual privacy using a fractal geometry. The courtyard is one of many spaces on site dedicated to a rotating program of site-specific art installations.

The Modern Wing captures the dynamic evolution of The Drake, told through new layers of architecture that honour the history of its origins, and enhances the hotel’s notable design presence and internationally significant role in Toronto’s arts community.

The video directed by Nicholas de Pencier captures the energy of Queen Street and the elements of craft and detailing that were introduced in the project.