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Evoking the constellation whose name it shares, Vela—a restaurant and supper club new to Toronto’s King West neighborhood—dazzles guests with a curving, illuminated ceiling that unfurls above them throughout the 4,000-square-foot space designed by local firm PARTISANS. The starry-night effect serves as a guiding light from the entrance, up seven steps to reception, and into the open champagne lounge and dining room, where it dips and swirls before cascading down a wall as a glowing performance backdrop. “The clients were inspired by 1930s-era grand hotels and lobby bars,” says architect Jonathan Friedman. “And they asked for a unique space for hospitality and music.”

Vela Restaurant.
Vela Restaurant.

Radiating from the 1904 building (1), Vela’s constellation of light meanders from the street into a dining room bordered by a bar and open kitchen (top), and down a wall (2). Photos © Jonathan Friedman / Partisans, click to enlarge.

The raw interior—in a 1904 brick-and-timber commercial-laundry building that more recently housed offices—had character, but was challenged with existing infrastructure that caused uneven and low ceiling heights. The team developed a scheme, rooted in natural land forms, that allowed them to work around these obstructions with fluid partitions and a prefabricated cast ceiling that doubles as a sound-diffusing surface and ambient luminaire. A composition of custom glass-fiber-reinforced-gypsum panels hung with airplane cable, the ceiling was carved with sinuous channels that cradle 1,000 feet of formable LED tubes linked with clips. All the pieces are unique and fit like a jigsaw puzzle.

The dimmable 2700K lamping emits a warmth across the restaurant. It is supported by downlights to zero in on dining surfaces; table lamps that illuminate faces; and spots on the timber posts to graze the wood. Uplights at the bar shelves and a banquette area wash the brick walls. As a result, Vela offers varied levels of intimacy. “By sculpting the ceiling, we made the space more comfortable,” says Friedman. “It solved technical challenges and also created a special experience for guests.”


PARTISANS — Jonathan Friedman, Alexander Josephson, Pooya Baktash, Ivan Vasyliv, Tanya Estrina, design team

Entuitive Consulting Engineers (structural); Trace Consulting Group (m/e/p)

General Contractor:
Aligned Construction

Mulvey & Banani (lighting design); Patti Rosati (interior design); HGC Engineering (acoustics); The 192 Group (a/v)


4,000 square feet


Completion Date:
July 2021



Formglas (GFRC); USG (acoustical)

LED Linear; RJCross; Lumenpulse; Techlighting; Viabizzuno; Juno; Rosco; QSC (controls)

Acoustic Wood Panels: