Absolute Marilyn

We all hear the complaints that condo towers are boring, boxy, and uninteresting. I suspect many of the criticisms are simply people casting around for grounds to justify their a priori dislike of tall buildings. In any case, Ottawa has a number of irregularly shaped and “dented” or curved condos now under construction. For those who want something more extreme, be careful of what you wish for, since ground breaking towers elsewhere are prototype buildings bound to be copied — suitably toned down — for the smaller Ottawa market by lesser architects.

The podium townhouses featured in the previous story were on Absolute Drive, in Mississauga, part of a mixed-use high rise complex in Canada’s largest employment centre.

There are several buildings on Absolute, including the two famous “Marilyn Monroe” towers. Today: the exteriors.

I had expected the Absolute Towers to have a common vertical core with balconies that extended outward to give the curvy silhouette. However, it was quickly apparent that the main bulk of the tower also offsets significantly, a most intriguing engineering feat.

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Every time one’s viewing angle changes, the shape of the towers changes, often dramatically. It is somewhat mesmerizing.

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I suspect if these buildings were in Chicago or NYC they would be widely celebrated as innovative American architecture, but up in the colonies, even one next to the centre of the universe, reaction is much more mixed.

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Do the residents of these towers get a thrill from living in the unusual shaped buildings, or would it be better to live in the more conventional towers next door and look at Marilyn?

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The undersides of the balconies were not smooth, but had irregular curved “bulkheads” which I presume were structural supports since the balconies extended outward so far, creating very large outdoor living spaces:

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Glass balcony railings were made of straight segments of glass, not curved glass, giving a choppy band of glass. The glass panels also had a half tone screen applied to some, in a wavy pattern. I could not discern if this was to emphasize the curve of the building as a whole, or if it had some other purpose. Every window in the apartment appeared to be a balcony door.


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The building site in Mississauga is well worth visiting, if only to be amazed at the audacity of architects and engineers.

Next: inside Marilyn Monroe.


Suggestion: it would be helpful if comments on these buildings had some reasons or explanation as to why you (dis)like them, other than somewhat useless trite pronouncements like “ugly” that don’t enlighten me or other readers. Come’on, be persuasive!

3 thoughts on “Absolute Marilyn

  1. Eric, how do the towers relate to the street? I find the aesthetics interesting and playful, which is obviously welcome in a place like Mississauga, or Ottawa. However, one of the most important things to me is that any building have a welcoming street presence, as well: not set back too far from the sidewalk, and ideally with some amenities.

  2. These are entertaining structures but, as always when I see such huge balconies, I can’t help thinking about the enormous heat loss through the projecting slabs along with the likelihood of significant mold potential along the adjacent exterior walls and ceilings. The thermally-isolated balconies in CCOC’s recent Beaver Barracks building on Catherine St. are an excellent solution to the problem but so far employed just about nowhere else in North America. Common as cockroaches in Europe of course.

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