How do you stand out from the crowd when said crowd is already one of the most popular areas in town?

Project: H&M Flagship Store, CA001, Toronto, Ontario

Architect: Petroff Partnership, Toronto, Ontario

Glazier: Just Aluminum, Mississuaga, Ontario

Indulating glass units fabricated by: Prelco, Montreal, QC

Etched products used: Opaque on surfaces 1, 2,3,4 as a part of Insulating Glass Unit


You design a structure that can stop people in their tracks thanks to a creative use of glass and illumination. That is what happened with the first flagship store for H&M in Canada. The location is in the busy intersection of Yonge & Dundas, which is also known as being a part of “Times Square North” based on it’s similarities to the New York City version.

For both the educated and uneducated, with this project, when it comes to architecture, the item that sticks out the most is the glass. The façade of this building is illuminated and its level of exposure is enhanced greatly by the glass. But before we delve into the details of the glazing, we back up a bit and get into how this incredible design came to be.

Scott Robertson is the Senior Project Manager of Petroff Partnership Architects (PPA) and he was there from start to finish. How this building came together truly was an effort of intelligent collaboration combined with design talent and excellent products. And an early gathering between PPA and H&M delivered the idea that got it all going.

“It was during this initial meeting that a concept sketch was developed by PPA that incorporated the primary elements of the Façade and signage based on the existing footprint of the Retail Store. The sketch illustrated the preliminary nature of the design at this juncture. H&M also had specific criteria for the façade in that it must be easy to maintain with a minimum amount of disruption to replace the signage, glazing units or illumination panels if they failed to operate or were damaged.”

With that criteria covered, PPA moved on to the framing and other building products.

“We selected a non-unitized, thermally sealed, capless curtain wall system that could be assembled from the exterior of the building with the glazing units secured using a toggle system and can be easily removed from the exterior using basic lift equipment,” Robertson said.

But the glass was the key. What product or products could PPA specify that would get them this stand out look that they had in mind?  Robertson and team consulted with Walker Glass, the leading manufacturer of etched glass in North America and a very unique and amazing glass make up was born.

“We determined that utilizing Starphire® glass (Low Iron glass made by PPG) and having the glazing units acid etched Opaque (with Walker Textures®) on all 4 surfaces would provide the highest level of translucency without impacting the amount of light transmission from the light panels within the curtain wall system. Walker Glass provided a high level of expertise in their knowledge of glazing which was instrumental in PPA achieving the most effective result for our client. The use of Starphire® glass for the vision panels at street level also ensured that there would be no color shift which is common where regular float glass is utilized.”

Getting to the conclusion of the Walker Textures® being on all four surfaces of the insulating glass units developed after several variations of products using clear and etched surfaces throughout, until it became obvious that the four surface make up made the most sense. For the design team on this project, it would be a first for using etched glass in this way.

“Although Petroff / ARK have utilized Opaque glazing units for projects in the past, this was the first instance in which a curtain wall system would be fully illuminated as part of a building envelope system. In past projects Opaque glazing units have been selected for the more traditional function of presenting a glazed surface without allowing visibility to the interior space,” added Robertson.

The H&M store at Yonge & Dundas met the vision of the design team. The glass manufactured by Walker Glass allowed that vision to come to a bright life and the other building products and signage selected by PPA all worked in perfect harmony.  For Robertson and PPA getting everything working together to create something so memorable is what they strive for every day.

“It is this balance between innovation and practical experience which affords PPA the opportunity to work with such a wide range of clients and project types both nationally and internationally,” Robertson concluded.

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