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Progress Shelter


City of Toronto



Toronto, Ontario






Completed 2021


Michael Muraz Photography

G. Bruce Stratton Architects




Nestled within a cluster of single-storey commercial complexes, a newly-lit marked walkway provides an accessible pedestrian connection from the street to a new men’s shelter for the homeless. Rather than full demolition, the sustainable approach of adaptive reuse was taken by retrofitting the interior and exterior of the 27,000 sf multi-tenant warehouse. Cladded in new aluminum composite metal panels, and with the entrance marked by a pair of corten steel sculptures, the shelter presents itself as a welcoming facility next to the monotonous facades of adjacent buildings. The colour scheme references the brick and concrete used throughout the site, but reinterpreted in richer tones.


The 8-suite building was opened up into one large interconnected complex, fully AODA-compliant and designed to house up to 94 clients. The floor plan features two main corridors serving perimeter-oriented bedrooms identified by uniquely painted doors and ceiling-hung Baltic birch plywood slats, infusing a connection to nature and serving as a means of wayfinding. Central to the layout is a communal dining area equipped with six new large skylights to bring in natural light for occupant wellbeing, while helping to reduce the demand on artificial lighting during the daytime.


The interior program features a fully-furnished commercial kitchen, industrial and client laundry facilities, special infirmary rooms, heat treatment room, staff offices, counsellor workstations with sound masking system, meeting rooms, program rooms, computer stations, health rooms, change rooms, universal washrooms, barrier-free washrooms, barrier-free showers and intake area. The interior finishes were selected with durability as a key design consideration, while maintaining a key objective to create a welcoming and comfortable environment for clients.


Site upgrades include exterior amenities such as client and staff lounges with landscaping, pet area, bike racks, additional parking, loading dock, a dedicated waste enclosure and three new ramps providing barrier-free access to all entrances of the building. The deteriorated asphalt roadway leading from Progress Avenue to the shelter was replaced entirely. Trees and plants were provided throughout the site and adjacent to the shelter.


With a variety of programmed and unstructured spaces, the facility offers temporary refuge for those trying to regain their footing, delivered through a design guided by the core consideration of treating everyone with dignity and respect.

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