News   Jul 12, 2024
 1.6K     0 
News   Jul 12, 2024
 1.2K     1 
News   Jul 12, 2024
 455     0 

Building Boom Architectural Quality

innsertnamehere

Superstar
Member Bio
Joined
Mar 8, 2010
Messages
19,604
Reaction score
23,433
After a heated debate over in the southcore thread, I decided to make a new thread here on interchange42's advice. If a thread discussing this topic already exists, feel free to merge it.

the original argument happening there:

You like that glass quite a bit? I think a lot of folks on this forum need to take a step back, maybe 5 steps back, and realize what's happening to your fair city. This article sums it up:
http://www.thestar.com/opinion/edit...ck-toronto-s-glass-condo-towers-cast-a-shadow

I looked at Toronto as being a city of vibrant diversity, but that's certainly not the case with your architecture, that's for sure. I think a lot of you have drank the Kool-Aid. I saw the Layover Toronto episode a couple of weeks back and Bourdain's thoughts are, unfortunately, pretty darn accurate: "It's not a good looking city…it's got sort of the worst architectural fads of the 20th century."

Toronto's architecture is far from banal. it is quite solid when it is compared to other residential towers in other North american cities.

chicago ranges from this:

090817-pondreflection_final.jpg


to this:

607551-Large.jpg


sure they may have this:

ChicagoAquaTower.jpg


but we have this:
one_bloor_2_Luxigon.jpg


and this:

Libeskind-L-Tower-Toronto2.jpg


and this:

original.jpg


and this:

urbantoronto-5145-18403.jpg



and this:

Gehry-Mirvish-2.jpg


and this:

20120228-Massey-Tower-Full.jpg


and this:

urbantoronto-5812-20328.jpg


and this:

X_Condos_Great_Gulf_Homes_110_Charles_Street_East_Downtown_Toronto_Sherbourne_Bloor-2.jpg


and this:

Theatre-ParkTower-rendering-1.jpg




if the worst of the worst for the city is this:

1259010234-success%20building.jpg


then I don't have too much to complain about.

First impressions never lie, and while Toronto may impress with its number of highrises, it comes off looking like North America's equivalent to Sao Paolo. I'll take quality over quantity and you can't argue that Chicago has you (Toronto) on quality. I don't know if most of the buildings you posted have been built or are under construction (they're all renders) but you'd think that with the Dubai-like boom happening up there, that there would be one building that's "planted in the soil like a fist" as the Toronto Star reporter states. Hey, you citizens and architecture aficionados of Toronto are seeing the city change before your eyes, and your collective voice should influence the manner in which your city is shaped architecturally, but to defend (and this is my opinion as an outside observer who doesn't live in your city, though Toronto, among others, is a city I'm considering moving to) the proliferation of these glass monstrosities, including such revered sites as L Tower and One Bloor, is doing a disservice to your city's architectural heritage. I've seen the CN Tower, and it impresses, as does City Hall and a lot of the old art deco style buildings, but the newer ones fail to leave an impression. I really like Toronto -- it's a great city that shames many US metropolises ... I guess I just expected more from Canada, especially during this opportune boom era you're so fortunate to be experiencing.

+1. Was going to reply to that comment myself, but you did a better job than I ever could've, innsertnamehere.

The way I see it is that not every development can be a standout designed by a world class architect, and with the scope of Toronto's boom, such examples are overshadowed by the sheer quantity of "regular" buildings. As innsertname said, our worst buildings really aren't all that bad. They're certainly better than most residential projects in other North American cities. (ever been to South Loop, Chicago?).

Comparing Toronto to São Paulo is insulting. Chicago certainly has good architecture, but the majority of it was built pre-war, which makes it physically impossible to directly" compete with. If you want to come up with examples of architecture from the 21st century that is built from $500-$700 a square foot, that you wish toronto to emulate, I would be happy to see what you are trying to say. But to simply say that Toronto is being ruined by new condos and compare it to a developing country with some of the most banal architecture on the planet is offside. Toronto's architecture is far from boring. Every city has "standard" background buildings, even New York and London. But Toronto is not a city of only background buildings. It is filled with buildings known the world over from architects such as IM Pei, Mies Van Der Rohe, Frank Gehry, Will Alsop, Daniel Libinskind, and other local groups such as Hariri Pontarini, aA, and Teeple architects. In fact, just this year a toronto condo has been winning awards the world over, including CTBUH "best new tall building in the Americas" . This building is called the Abololute towers, and is nicknamed the Marylin Munroe towers for their beauty and shape.

629.jpg

I'm seeing lots of discussion in these boards about aesthetics and not about much else in architecture.

I'm personally still shocked by the lack of concern in these boards about the inappropriateness of our structures for the climate they exist in. Massive temperature differences between the interiors of condos and the air outside, separated only by cheap window-wall glass.

We are working hard to update and "weather-proof" 50s/60s apartment blocks while we put up hundreds/thousands of condos that are not all that different. Yes, some are better, but for the most part, they are abysmal. We face massive environmental problems, and we're already faced by the reality that buildings gobble up HUGE amounts of energy. You'd think we would want to do the LEAST to create, you know, a responsive architecture that's appropriate to its climate. Unfortunately, unbridled capitalism rules all and the developers continue to provide the all-glass crap that we all seem to desire so.

It's a shame that we can't see past all-glass in this city. Buildings with thoughtfully placed windows can actually provide a nicer living experience; windows can frame views or capture light in intentional ways. We just need to open our mind to the fact that there are lots of different solutions than just glass everywhere you look. Unfortunately, consumers are very uncreative. Teeple's Picasso condo seems like a step in the right direction.

PS. I warn that it will be difficult to convince me that I'm being overly cynical since I'm studying architecture (including building science and sustainability) and I am in fact typing this out from my bedroom in a 5-year-old condo where my room is as draughty as a decrepit 1800s cottage. Then again, when I lived at The MET, it wasn't draughty at all in comparison. But then again, with the heat or A/C running constantly, we can become blind to the environmental dilemmas presented by our all-glass housing units. ;)

tl;dr The quality of new architecture is determined by much more than the style or aesthetics of a building considered in isolation.

I understand that you feel passionately about your city, as well you should, and I certainly didn't mean to insult by comparing Toronto to Sao Paolo. Sao Paolo impresses, and not just on landing and takeoff. At street level, you'd be hard-pressed to beat Toronto and I've lived in SF, LA, London, Rome. I merely have a passing interest in urban planning and architecture and I have to say that, like Anthony Bourdain, I agree that the real jewels of Toronto lie at street level, not in its architecture. Yes, that's just my opinion, but for outsiders who visit your city, it's not the architecture that leaves an impression (CN Tower and City Hall notwithstanding), it's the diversity you see in the food and culture. Yes, maybe even in the architecture -- there is a diversity -- but it doesn't leave an impression. If civic leaders read these posts, then my hope is that the collective voice of urban toronto is an influencing factor for such issues as access to the waterfront, tearing down that highway, and pushing developers to raise the bar architecturally, aesthetically. Look, you have a guy like Richard Floria living in your city, so that can't be anything but a good thing, and I feel that Toronto is at a pivotal stage in its history, and it can really make a mark architecturally, but so far, even with these curvy towers you posted (the glass leaves much to desire btw), the city is missing the mark. It is banal and looks cheap and the opinions of those who visit the city for the first or second time (Anthony Bourdain or someone else) shouldn't be dismissed. First impressions are important and, again, I don't mean to offend, but from the slew of new highrises going up in your city, nothing (aside from possibly one of those Gehry towers) impresses.

Regarding Southcore in general, there is indeed a surplus of banal boxes, particularly the office towers, but when you look at the glass itself, it is certainly high quality. I expect the Delta here to take the lead in design alongside the Ice towers. These are flying up and it is quite exciting to see, as the area will be better as a whole than are many of its parts.

In terms of trix's comments, they certainly aren't too off base. Toronto does have a lot of mediocre towers. We can do better. However, most of the nice towers are under construction (our boom has just begun in terms of real construction), as evidenced by innsertnamehere's display. Only a few there are just ideas, almost all of them are going up.

The problem with the comments is that most people simply don't like modernist architecture. They don't like "glass." A wall of glass. Well, if you don't like the Shangri-la or the Four Seasons or the L-Tower or the Marilyns, I can't really engage in a conversation with you. The glass on the Merylins looks bad?!? It is very high quality, and to say you think it looks cheap is simply an aesthetic judgement that many do not share (Europeans tend to like stone or brick, and I do too, but walking around Barcelona where I live is nothing but a giant wall of stone. I can tell you it isn't all that better than a wall of glass). Anthony Bourdain says we had all the "bad" movements of the 20th century - well, I would suspect that he just doesn't like any movements from the 20th century. Could trix give some examples of good architecture from the 20th or today? I would be interested (even if it is in another forum?). Again, this isn't to say that there aren't too many bad concrete or glass building in Toronto, because there are.

I understand what you mean. And to some extent what you say is completely true. The huge building boom for Toronto should have resulted in many more quality buildings than we have got. That does not mean Toronto has not got any during the boom but it simply means there SHOULD have been more, especially compared to the number of buildings built during the boom. In other words you can look at it with this simple equation,

(number of quality buildings (including aspects of architecture and sheer looks) / total number of buildings built) * 100

In other words, it is pure efficiency. Though I hate to admit it most North American cities have a higher percent (when using above equation) than Toronto.

However, this does seem to be changing with more recent proposals and now that developers are realizing the importance of good architecture. This of course includes proposals like Mirvish, one yonge, 50 bloor, oxford casino and so on.

With that said, I am satisfied with what is happening like a lot of people on this forum.




Now then, I liked the idea that critique came up with, which is a formula to come up with the "ratio" of good buildings built vs. the banal buildings built. I decieded to run with it, and created this list:


TORONTO

233 total

38 good

16.3 Final Ratio

CHICAGO

90 total

13 good


14.4 final ratio


NEW YORK

127 built

23 good

18.11 final ratio

LOS ANGELES

12 total

4 good

NOT LARGE ENOUGH SAMPLE

33.33 final ratio

VANCOUVER

32 total

7 good

21.88 final ratio

MONTREAL

12 total

3 good

NOT LARGE ENOUGH SAMPLE

25 final ratio

HOUSTON

18 total

3 good

16.667 final ratio




so the total final ratios, with a large enough sample size to judge from runs like this; I took a look at all built and proposed buildings over 100m for each city, provided they were built after the year 2000.

14.4 CHICAGO

16.3 TORONTO

16.6 HOUSTON (smallest sample size, only 3 "good buildings")

18.11 NEW YORK (considering the prices of new york real estate, I expected this to be much higher)

21.88 VANCOUVER (most of their buildings are below the 100m mark, so this would be lower if I were to drop the mark to say, 80m)
 
Last edited:
The vast majority of highrise construction in the world is clad in glass. Look at New York, Paris, Moscow etc and you will find that few if any are clad in materials other than glass. The issue with Southcore and Cityplace is the sameness of it all. This area resembles Vancouver far more than Sao Paulo. The quality of the glass in several projects is another issue, with cheap window wall systems that don't work well in our climate. Glass can work in our environment (look at all of the 40 plus year old glass office buildings) however it needs to be of high quality. Building code and standards need to be far more stringent to address this issue. Southcore is almost at the point where it cannot be redeemed. All of the available land in this area is poised for development with glass buildings in the same tone and colour. Ice will add a touch of variety architecturally, but is too similar in cladding and will blend in. Same with 10 York, 1 York etc. Even One Yonge's exciting proprosal looks to be the same unispired glass cladding. Architecture aside, we need some serious variation in colour and cladding for what little is left to be developed down here. This is what made the "old" CBD lakeview skyline view (now forever lost) so interesting- different textures, colours and materials ,even though the majority of the buildings are modernist boxes.
 
Last edited:
I hate to make my fist post on UT a little OT but:

But to simply say that Toronto is being ruined by new condos and compare it to a developing country with some of the most banal architecture on the planet is offside.

This comment is pretty offside too. I don't know why you felt the need to belittle Sao Paulo and Brazil to make a point on Toronto's architectural quality. It comes across as ignorant and a doesn't add much substance to your arguement (which I'm inclined to support myself).
 
The vast majority of highrise construction in the world is clad in glass. Look at New York, Paris, Moscow etc and you will find that few if any are clad in materials other than glass. The issue with Southcore and Cityplace is the sameness of it all.

I like the 'sameness' of the much disparaged Toronto box building, and think Southcore is a wonderful example of that. None of the buildings would win an award for design flair but they work well together.

Maybe not a common view, but the issue with Toronto highrises to me is more often their attempts to be unique. We see all sorts of ridiculous crowns, frills and weird floorplates (who the hell wants to live on an ellipse?!), all accompanied by subpar materials.

Outside of condo-promotional materials, most buildings will and *should be* boring.
 
That's completely off-base and a huge generalization. UT is FULL of people who love modernism. I sure as hell do! But that doesn't mean we settle for less, and it doesn't mean that we accept all-glass as an acceptable building envelope on every single new development in this city, given the properties of *most* glass cladding systems and our climate *most of the time*. (A climate of extremes, increasingly.)

But I wasn't speaking at all of most people on UT. Rather, most people who comment on Toronto Star articles, or indeed trix, or for that matter the average suburban person (so the average person). My point was precisely that most people don't like cities, don't like tall buildings, and don't like modernist architecture. A lot of people who buy condos or work in new buildings around the world do, though. Yet I totally agree with you regarding the climactic qualities of the architecture we have - I would really like eco-designs for better living and for the environment. But I do think that most modernist architecture is clad in glass. Thus my comment. I would appreciate examples of better suited designs from you or whoever else.
 
I'm a bit puzzled by that notion as a prescriptive dictum. I mean, should be boring? Why on earth?

Perhaps 'should be boring' was an odd way of saying it. Rather, most buildings in any city will be rather unremarkable. Not necessarily ugly or low quality, just not meant to be 'signature' or 'stunning' or whatever term condo-marketing brochures are using.

Ultimately, the point of a building is to house whatever it is supposed to in a reasonably economic way. Form follows function and all that. Obviously that doesn't translate directly into 'boring,' but I expect it to result in most buildings eschewing most vanity design features.

It reminds me of Plato's line that if you want to build a pretty statue, you don't necessarily build it out of the most beautiful or distracting components (e.g. jewels for eyes). A really pretty city doesn't need every building to try to try to outdo the other.

Worse, since most 'signature' buildings don't really get 'signature' budgets, they tend to get tacky design features (idiotic crowns), or cut money from elsewhere (the cheapening...).
 
Wow insertnamehere, thanks for actually using the idea and going along with it! Must have taken you a while, and great job.
 
Not really, just used te SSP diagrams and selected ones that I thought looked nice. It's a rater arbitrary number. Probably took me 10 minutes to compile that "data"
 
I like the 'sameness' of the much disparaged Toronto box building, and think Southcore is a wonderful example of that. None of the buildings would win an award for design flair but they work well together.

Maybe not a common view, but the issue with Toronto highrises to me is more often their attempts to be unique. We see all sorts of ridiculous crowns, frills and weird floorplates (who the hell wants to live on an ellipse?!), all accompanied by subpar materials.

Outside of condo-promotional materials, most buildings will and *should be* boring.

I think you missed my point. Architecture aside (thats a whole different argument), the "sameness" I was refering to is the singular choice of cladding and colour ( light green/ blue glass). Absolutely nothing stands out. Every building visually bleeds into the other. As I mentioned above, the CBD is a prime example of modernist boxes that work well together but are unique in their colour, cladding and materials. Imagine if the TD Center, FCP, and Commerce Court were all clad in the same glass as BA 1.
Drop in the X twins, E condos, and the Sherborne street proposal (all boxes) into the mix at Southcore and now you are talking. Some colour and texture please before its too late!!
p.s. We can be thankful we did no have this boom in the 80's cause we would have had one hell of a POMO mess down here!:p
 
I think you missed my point. Architecture aside (thats a whole different argument), the "sameness" I was refering to is the singular choice of cladding and colour ( light green/ blue glass). Absolutely nothing stands out. Every building visually bleeds into the other. As I mentioned above, the CBD is a prime example of modernist boxes that work well together but are unique in their colour, cladding and materials. Imagine if the TD Center, FCP, and Commerce Court were all clad in the same glass as BA 1.
Drop in the X twins, E condos, and the Sherborne street proposal (all boxes) into the mix at Southcore and now you are talking. Some colour and texture please before its too late!!
p.s. We can be thankful we did no have this boom in the 80's cause we would have had one hell of a POMO mess down here!:p

Yea, I'm a little less than thrilled with the apparent conesnsus in Toronto around light green/blue. Even small batches of color could improve these designs.
 
I'm not a fan of Toronto's recent architectural boom from an aesthetic perspective. I know this thread is precisely about aesthetics as most consideration on this forum are. I just wanted to point out how disproportionately weighted aesthetic concerns are here relative to their overall importance to how a city functions. I'm not saying that aesthetics isn't important or that aesthetics and other consideration are mutually exclusive, I'm saying that you can live a great life in a surrounding that isn't exceptionally or even competent aesthetically. Perhaps Toronto is itself a proof of this very opinion.

I am far more concerned about people living great lives. Living in the most aesthetically pleasing surrounding is no substitute for an impoverished life. To consider it the other way, that aesthetics are the most important or primary consideration is like looking at the world through the shallow glasses of a narcissist.
 
Speaking personally about Toronto's condo aesthetics, I find I can't make a blanket statement about the architectural output being "good" or "bad" (obviously). The best I can simplify my answer is to say that it varies from product type to product type and also by geographical location.

In general, I think that Toronto's mid-rises are top-notch, especially those in Freedville and along King street east. These are, in my opinion, the most attractive residential buildings we've ever put up. Better, even, than Victorian Bay and Gables. Take a walk down Stewart street in Freedville at night. I defy you not to feel warm and fuzzy by how well-proportioned the buildings are; how they frame the street into an intimate yet urbane space. I get the same feeling walking down Stewart street as I do walking down a really great street in a really great continental European metropolis. I go out of my way to walk down that street when I'm in the neighbourhood. The other great thing about the midrises is that they're architecturally consistent from top-to-bottom. While there are quite a few highrises that are architecturally consistent all the way through, many more suffer from a visual mish-mash.

Our high-rises are a mixed bag. There are certainly some really good ones, but our midrises are much more to my liking, on average. One of the problems with high-rises is that there are far more people residing in them, so you have to scale up your supportive infrastructure accordingly. These things (eg. parking entranceways, service bays, fire exits, etc.) are almost never attractive. The second thing about skyscrapers is that they are designed to look good from far away, so when you get up close to them they can feel anything from overwhelming to cartoonish. A successful highrise is one that looks good from far away and yet manages to retain a human-scaled podium that interacts well with street level BUT is visually consistent with the tower above. Not many architects can pull this off. Even Mies had to demolish several acres of our financial district to create a plaza that doesn't make his TD centre overbearing; I love the L tower but the way it meets the corner of Yonge and the Esplanade is not going to win it any awards. The Festival Tower has a good podium, but it bears no relation to the tower above.

Actually, maybe it was because Toronto's boom was a high-rise boom rather than a mid-rise boom that the architectural quality seems underwhelming to me. It's a lot easier to make a midrise look good and especially to make the street level feel inviting.
 
Perhaps 'should be boring' was an odd way of saying it. Rather, most buildings in any city will be rather unremarkable. Not necessarily ugly or low quality, just not meant to be 'signature' or 'stunning' or whatever term condo-marketing brochures are using.

Ultimately, the point of a building is to house whatever it is supposed to in a reasonably economic way. Form follows function and all that. Obviously that doesn't translate directly into 'boring,' but I expect it to result in most buildings eschewing most vanity design features.

It reminds me of Plato's line that if you want to build a pretty statue, you don't necessarily build it out of the most beautiful or distracting components (e.g. jewels for eyes). A really pretty city doesn't need every building to try to try to outdo the other.

Worse, since most 'signature' buildings don't really get 'signature' budgets, they tend to get tacky design features (idiotic crowns), or cut money from elsewhere (the cheapening...).

'kay. I suspected as much but I wanted to make sure. Thanks for the clarification. And I agree in the main with your view, especially with the notion that "a really pretty city doesn't need every building to try to try to outdo the other." And yes, a tacky crown plunked atop an otherwise unremarkable structures do not a signature building make.
 

Back
Top