The Spice

Hiding in one of the modest alleyways in Toronto’s Little Portugal, this limestone brick warehouse was built around 1907. Hogtown, as Toronto was nicknamed then, was internationally known for its cured meats. Initially the warehouse was established as a family business, specializing in importing and exporting a much-needed ingredient the local hog industry required—spice. After the cured hog meat boom was over in the early 50s, the warehouse was split up and used by various other businesses until it deteriorated completely.

The Spice Factory before its much-needed rehabilitation

Fast-forwarding to 2009: this factory’s heavy-duty structure was now in desperate need of a complete restoration. The intent of this undertaking was to preserve the warehouse’s robust interiors as well as accentuate its undecorated exterior. In doing so, our reimagining of this prominent building would also help rejuvenate the appearance of the whole block.

The Spice Factory
1943 calendar from Oppenheimer Casing Company discovered underneath the declining drywalls (right); Restored main entrance (left) ©2018 Revelateur Studio

After a careful selection of the most imaginative and resourceful design professionals, like Kevin Downey,  the commonsensical architect, our team worked tirelessly to achieve the goal. One of the biggest challenges we encountered was not rehabilitating the physical components of the building, but rather experiencing the countless obstacles presented to us by the Toronto Planning Department. Yet, in spite of these roadblocks, our no-nonsense blueprint was finally approved and building permit was granted. In fact, ours was the first building permit ever issued by the City of Toronto for what is known as an “unchronicled warehouse”.

The restored 2nd level ©2018 Marcos Armstrong

It was critical for us to preserve the warehouse original structural framework while bringing its functionality into the 21st century. Given the warehouse’s untouched, no-frills appearance, our goal was to utilize the utmost environmentally-sound, yet industrially-proof materials. However, the ultimate task was to preserve as much of the building’s original identity as possible. After all, with its many large windows, and two loading docks, the warehouse was a true jewel in its own right. Spacious, open and continually filled with ever-changing natural luminosity, only an observation tower could(???).

The restored 3rd level loft (right) with its stairs (left) ©2018 Revelateur Studio

Two years later, our process was completed and once again, the up-to-speed warehouse became a source of delight, not only for our team, but the whole community. Final say?

By sensing an untapped potential, we were ready and willing to face obstacles we knew were worth it. We knew how to make a civic asset out of something that would otherwise go unnoticed. As Sharon VanderKaay, a design educator commented, “You know how to get things done that haven’t been done before. You work through obstacles. In the final analysis, how does it make people feel? One could say that it makes people feel proud about their street because creative people have chosen to live and work here and this is a quiet hive of activity.”