Restaurateur and property impresario Janet Zuccarini commissioned PARTISANS to create Gusto 501 as an unprecedented bar and restaurant experience that would catapult her growing reputation as an iconic North American restaurateur. We were inspired to pay homage to her portfolio of characterful properties, her deep Italian roots, and her passion for making celebrated Italian food to realize a place of enduring cultural and civic significance.
Surrounded by an overpass and former factories, Gusto 501’s terracotta “Hypergarage” is a nod to her story and the urban context. Punctuated by one of the largest operable glass facades in the world, which is framed in weathering steel, the building is destined to become a symbol for the nascent east end neighborhood. For the interior, we looked at terracotta—one of the humblest Italian building materials—and asked how the ordinary blocks could become a sculpture. Employing parametric modelling, we cut conventional terracotta bricks to craft undulating walls within a multitiered dining theatre resembling a hive. Natural light from the glass roof 50ft above
creates a lively play of shadows on the textured walls, and, at night, LED lights embedded within the blocks illuminate their opened voids, invoking the glowing embers of a pizza oven.
The 205-seat restaurant is comprised of a series of mezzanines and cut-outs that suggest a continuous, vertically unfolding array of dining experiences. On the ground level there is a sidewalk terrace and main dining room with its open pizza oven, woodfired grill and take-out window. On the mezzanine level there’s a wine bar—partially veiled by dark metal mesh screens—overlooking the dining room below. On the second level is a light-flooded cocktail bar with a bridge to “Attico” – a private chef’s tasting room with a dedicated kitchen. Above it all, there is a roof terrace where guests can enjoy beverages and light snacks as well as a birds-eye view of Toronto. At Gusto 501, monumental architecture is in constant dialogue with refined detailing at all scales – including custom-made reusable terracotta coffee cups, wing-backed walnut dining chairs, a velvet bench upholstered in smoky-blue velvet, locally-sourced granite
stone countertops reminiscent of an elemental landscape. We wanted this building to challenge the status quo while remaining faithful to Zuccarini’s vision of offering Torontonians and their guests truly spectacular dining experiences. Far from a simple restaurant, Gusto 501 is an experiment in combining art, architecture, food and community under one roof.
PARTISANS is a Toronto-based architecture studio that specializes in the integration of design and technology, invention and programming, and culture and creative services. Led by Alex Josephson, Pooya Baktash and Jonathan Friedman, the practice is made up of a diverse team of architects, researchers, storytellers, entrepreneurs, builders, and cultural enthusiasts devoted to a cause: smart, high-performance design that strives to make the improbable possible.
Founded in 2012, our name comes from the importance we place on taking clear positions on architectural issues. We regard architecture as a shared, political act. As individuals, we contribute to the practice of architecture in unique ways.
We believe that architecture is more than the act of designing. It is a way of seeing, thinking, and making that expands, and even revolutionizes, our experience of the world. Our research-focused studio distills and translates our client’s ambitions into responsive architecture.