Designing the Future of Urban Living with Great Gulf

  • Design Research
  • Journey Mapping
  • Service Design

To future-proof two large-scale residential development projects, ADG partnered with Great Gulf to help the construction giant make smart investments informed by best-in-class speculative design and research.

Opportunity: Reimagining the Residential Experience

If you’re building to last, you need a solid foundation centered on a clear vision of the future.

Great Gulf, one of North America’s largest residential developers, had set their sights high—aiming to create a new kind of condominium that would serve not only today’s market but many decades of urban dwellers to come. As they considered two new large-scale highrise developments in Toronto, they also knew they needed a smart approach to stand out in a smart city.

Great Gulf called on ADG, in partnership with Tellart, to translate trends in construction, technology, and culture into actionable strategies, helping them build to withstand the test of time.

Strategy: Gathering Proof to Face the Future

The Great Gulf team are industry veterans, and understood the importance of long-term thinking in their development plans. But in a time where rapid changes are reshaping cities from the ground up, Great Gulf needed an adaptive approach to ensure their new highrise condominiums would both fit the market today and meet the needs of tomorrow.

As a leader in speculative design, ADG was well positioned to paint a holistic, future-focused picture of the real estate landscape, helping Great Gulf uncover and invest exclusively in the most promising development innovations. After connecting with the Great Gulf executive team, ADG set out to create a future-proofing report, packed with strategic insights and recommendations. It was time to set a course towards tomorrow.

One of the condo buildings currently in development - 411 King St. on the corner of King & Spadina in Toronto. Great Gulf's hope: build the condo of the future, today.

Research: Combining Lenses for a Clearer View

Kicking off with a three-week research sprint, ADG applied a design and society approach to quickly uncover deep, comprehensive insights. This approach considers three distinct lenses:

  • Business strategy: ADG facilitated interviews with Great Gulf executives to understand business goals and constraints, market realities, and pricing considerations,
  • User needs: Expanding on existing research reports, ADG worked to capture the needs, motivations, lifestyle, and experiences of the next generation of condo dwellers,
  • Systems thinking: ADG analyzed broader trends in market, cultural and technological developments to assess their significance in the real estate context.

Combining these three lenses, ADG had a clear vision of present realities, and was ready to set sights on the future. Integrating corporate foresight practices, ADG employed models like the futures cone to project trends into the decades to come, assessing what is possible, probable—and ultimately, profitable.

These insights helped Great Gulf know where to invest now to succeed later. For example, while today’s newsfeeds are buzzing with speculation about drone delivery, ADG’s research indicated this trend was unlikely to develop to maturity—helping Great Gulf make better choices with their construction budgets.

The report used a Design & Society approach mixed with Speculative Design to come up with an actionable strategy

Design: Taking the Residential Highrise to New Heights

1. Reporting on the future:
Research insights are just the tip of the iceberg; ADG next worked to make these speculative projections accessible and actionable. Synthesizing the research, ADG determined five high-level themes that would shape the future of condominium living.

Tomorrow’s residential highrise will be:

  • Smart: integrating technologically-driven systems and intelligent data to help buildings optimize energy resources and their residents stay connected,
  • Adaptable: including flexible spaces that can adapt to changing needs, personalized for the unique interests of the residents,
  • Wellness-centered: enabling residents to maintain an active lifestyle, practice self-care, and embrace nature,
    Communal: encouraging and inviting social connectivity through shared resources and spaces, transforming buildings into communities,
  • Iconic: recognising and celebrating the building’s relationship with its neighborhood, developing an strong, sustainable identity.
ADG included highly-relevant inspirational case studies in its report, informing actionable recommendations to future-proof Great Gulf's condominiums.

For each of these thematic categories, ADG curated highly-relevant case studies for inspiration, expert insights, and actionable recommendations— delivering 45 clear strategies to take Great Gulf’s developments to the next level. In the Adaptable category, for example, ADG recommended developing an adjustable parking structure. Anticipating the changing needs for personal transit, the garage could be constructed for easy conversion into retail, office, or multi-use space to best serve future residents.

Across the board, ADG’s report integrated a holistic exploration of the relationships between people, space, technology, environment, and time—ensuring Great Gulf’s investments would build a solid foundation to support the entire system.

ADG facilitated a workshop with the Great Gulf team to determine priorities for implementation.

2. Facilitating progress:
With the future-proofing report as a guide, ADG then facilitated an interactive workshop with the Great Gulf executive team. ADG guided the team to quickly map heat and explore the feasibility of each recommendation, and determine priorities for implementation.

The Great Gulf team was inspired not only by new technological and design solutions, but by unexpected ideas inspired by research. In the Wellness category, many resonated with the concept of a space for solace—an approach to designing commons spaces like rooftop gardens or meditation rooms that would help residents feel comfortable being ‘alone together.’

The final report laid out the most actionable, promising, future-friendly solutions that were integrated into the two condo buildings

Impact: Laying the Foundation for Great Gulf’s Success

Following the workshop, ADG delivered an updated report emphasizing the best solutions to help Great Gulf face the future. The Great Gulf team was eager to implement these ideas in their development plans, and the results will be written in stone as the residences are constructed over the next few years.

ADG helped Great Gulf navigate the complex web of factors shaping the future of urban life, designing solutions to ensure their investments will serve both the modern market and many generations to come.