For their 3rd and newest café, recently opened in the Queen West neighbourhood of Toronto, Thor owners and operators Tom Junek and Patrick Tu continued their fruitful and symbiotic relationship with emerging architecture firm Phaedrus Studio. Thor Espresso Started in 2010 with their first and wildly successful location on Bathurst st and continued with the opening of Odin, their second café and first collaboration with Phaedrus in 2015, to public and critical acclaim.
This time, Junek and Tu had to step up their game in order to stand out from a crowded coffee marketplace while reinforcing their brand awareness. Surfing on the success of Odin, they engaged Phaedrus again to design a different kind of café, in a very challenging context.
The café was to be a decidedly contemporary space that would both act as a destination for design enthusiasts and stopover for the under-caffeinated local creative class, fitting for the John St. corridor, a small but mighty creative hub in the city’s core.
Having already established a trusting and highly functional relationship, Thor gave Phaedrus’ David Grant-Rubash and Tyler Malone carte blanche to design unique location that could be celebrated the world over as a piece of creative design.
Phaedrus’ highly collaborative ethos is what made this project a wild success, as they artfully managed the expectations and demands of the landlord, the co-working space as well as Thor, as they had to turn a space initially unsuited for a café into the design gem it is today. That meant going above and beyond their initial scope of work to facilitate the re-negotiation of leases and the modification of mechanical systems that were thoughtlessly laid out in the first place.
Thor Espresso bar is the embodiment of what can happen when willing parties collaborate closely and use creativity and innovative solutions that ultimately benefit everyone involved, while reconciling and synchronizing seemingly contradictory requirements.
What was the brief?
To create a neighbourhood destination, for local coffee lovers and design tourists alike, that integrated seamlessly and thoughtfully into a large, newfangled multi-storey coworking space, itself a renovated mass-timber warehouse building dating back to 1933. Designed to be their new flagship location, the outlet had to be highly functional and striking at the same time in order to accommodate all stakeholder’s requirements, which at times would be contradictory. A high-stakes project, it was to make an impact the way few coffee shops do.
What were the key challenges?
1. Designing and building a flagship location for Thor that supported the coworking space it was to be a part of.
2. Unfavourable site conditions, including major mechanical systems made the café impossible if left as-is.
What were the solutions?
1. Reconciling the desire of an international co-working company and a local , nimble small café operator to make their respective flagship location successful, while navigating the coordination challenges that resulted in the co-working space’s design and construction being well underway at the start of the project. Facilitate early on the dialogue and collaboration between the stakeholders in order to ensure that their respective requirements were met while providing them with a solution that went beyond the original scope and elevated the experience of the place.
2. Coordinating the modification unfavourable existing mechanical systems to allow the café to operate to its maximum potential without impeding the building’s functioning.
How is the project unique?
Thor espresso bar is unique in its unabashed expression of art, craft and design, the reflection of a team which truly believed that in every challenge lies an opportunity to raise one’s standards of quality. Not letting traditional boundaries stop them, they overcame every challenge by responding with highly innovative solutions. The combined vision of Thor, the design acumen of Phaedrus as well as the sense of craft of Paus, the fabricators, was what made the high-quality finished space possible.
Who are the clients and what's interesting about them?
Tom Junek and Patrick Tu, founders of Thor, both come from a Bay St. background. After a successful run in the corporate world they decided in the late 2000’s to start their own venture in the hospitality sector that would enable them to scratch their creative itch. They truly believe in the ability of well-designed, innovative spaces to elevate the experience of its users while reinforcing their brand. Their ongoing partnership with Phaedrus is the embodiment of that commitment to bridging the gap between business and creativity, as they understand that it is instrumental to the long-term success of their brand.
Key products used:
1. Polymer Soft Touch - by Sublime Collection
2. Octolux Metals Brushed Aluminum - by Octopus
3. Octolux Metals Mirror - by Octopus
4. Octolux Metals Smoke Mirror - by Octopus
5. Corian Deep Nocturne - by Dupont
6. LED Black Track Head - by Juno Lighting
7. LED Floor Mounted Spot Light - by Winona Lighting
8. Flexible LED Strip - by Varioled Flex Hydra
9. Faz Side Chair - by Vondom
10. Douglas Chunk - by STYLEGARAGE
11. Blythe Wedge - by Gus* Modern