I caught a glance through a storefront sales office window of this new condo tower in Toronto, and my first thought was leap of excitement that it was another Habitat 67 type building:
True, the building steps up wedding-cake like on each end. The façade is interesting, with units jutting forward and back.
But closer examination revealed those “forward” sections are balconies that have been enclosed on three sides with building panels. Reminds me of wimples on nuns in an old Bing Crosby movie. Unlike Habitat, there are no “negative spaces” or indents on the building mass.
Essentially, most of the building structure starts as a plain cube, with stepped ends, and projecting balcony walls. Nonetheless, it ends up a more exciting exterior than we have yet seen in Ottawa. The Toronto project is by Tridel and is called Alexandra Park, near Queen and Spadina.
Here’s a picture from their brochure:
Until recently, most designs we got here were another plain cube with a bowed front. Except for Charlesfort’s MacIntosh and Art Decco buildings, economical exteriors prevailed (and even those buildings are still pretty much cubes). I am encouraged though by the ‘shaping’ that occurs on Claridge’s new towers by Place Bell, and the insistence of our High Rise Approvals Dept that developers engage some out of town architects and better designs for new buildings (eg Richcraft at Dow Motors, maybe Claridge at 505 Preston).
There is a lag between designs being submitted and the buildings appearing, which is even more pronounced with the recent [temporary] slowdown in the condo market. Our wannabe-Toronto clusters of high rises need to rise above the econo-box designs that have prevailed to date, if we judge by the built-structures we see around us. It’s harder, of course, to judge the unbuilt.
I’d like to see City design approvals require a review and refresh if there is a long lag between approvals and construction, so that our buildings will look cutting edge rather than old hat. Otherwise our 2019 new buildings will look like Toronto’s 2010 buildings.