Location: London, ON
Year of Completion: 2022
Construction Budget: $15,000,000
Architect of Record: Invizij Architects
This urban redevelopment revitalized the former Embassy Hotel site in London’s Old East Village. The Embassy Hotel was originally built in the 1900’s and was London’s oldest hotel still in operation, before it burned in 2009. The 1980s and 90s saw live music become the Embassy’s main draw, with a wide range of genres including country, punk, and later indie, hip hop, rock, folk, jazz, and blues. The site was also home to the artist-led Embassy Cultural Hub.
Having been vacant for ten years, the site has undergone dramatic transformation with affordable housing, community programming, and new arts and commercial space along this busy corridor. The project includes 72 one-bedroom (and a few two-bedroom) apartments, yet is functionally designed as two communities with different street addresses. The design embraces the urban design guidelines for Old East Village and also includes artwork from local artists that reference the history of the dynamic site.
The large print of an original watercolour painting by artist Jamelie Hassan called The Embassy Hotel at Night from 1978 has double meaning. As an artist, she was inspired by the building because her family were owners of the building during it’s artistic hayday.
The three large mosaic artworks on the building were through a partnership with the London Clay Arts Centre and artist Beth Turnbull Morrish who conceived the design, oversaw tile production, and installed over 12,000 hand made tiles along with her intrepid crew. Installation was completed in the summer of 2022. The design concept was inspired through a charette with potential tenants and other stakeholders; it embodies the thoughts and feelings of Indwell residents and staff who participated that day. The panels represent hope associated with starting a new path, Love and Thriving, and Belonging and Safety. The middle panel features the forks of the Antler River, a.k.a. the Thames; earth and roots signify the many hardships we grow through, while the spectrum of colours of Ontario wildflowers represent love for all people. Embassy Commons – Indwell Mosaic Project – London Clay Art Centre
The building comes with supports, including nursing, addictions and mental health.
“Our tenants are very diverse — by gender, by life experience, by age. But many of the common themes are an experience of poverty, an experience of mental health issues, and often addiction in their past,” said Cubitt. “And the common experience is often that people are looking to move forward.”
Embassy Commons also houses the Squeaky Wheel Bike-Co-op, along with Edgar and Joe’s Café, where some tenants will take part in hospitality training programs.