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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered



  1. My major concern is the feasibility of these towers actually selling. That is an awful lot of condos for the city to absorb, at a time when the market is already dealing with condo saturation. Even though the towers are probably 5yrs+ out, sales will be happening in the next 1-2years, at the very peak of completions.

    It just reminds me of the failed chicago spire.

  2. The problem is not the project – the Gehry designed buildings are beautiful, dramatic and hugely desirable!!

    The problem is with the LOCATION!!!!

    This stretch of King Street is just fine the way it is. Just nearby and elsewhere there are areas in DIRE NEED of revitalization and city building!!

    Mr. Mirvish and City Hall should get clever, roll up their sleeves and find a better location for this project. I know he owns the land but do a land swap or something outside the box to get these buildings built in a location that will not destroy heritage buildings and tear down a lovely theatre …but actually help Toronto in City building!

  3. Thanks for this. My major concern would be the inevitable reduction in the scale of the design due to cost constraints while the developers maintain the size of the project. How often are the original architectural designs followed through to the end of the process? This concern is exacerbated by the current slowing of the condo market.

    Basically: there are density (and other) concerns with these towers. If we lose the mitigating factor (iconic design), at what point is the project no longer worth it?

  4. There is a $3billion makeover of Midtown going on (think of it as 1/2 of a Crosstown $7billion) that will see the local population soon increase by over 15,000 residents – and we’re still without a plan. There are clusters of developments in Midtown about to be heard at the OMB – because the City will not respond in the regulated time. The Planners are upset because the developers want similar height and density that the Planners previously approved for other applications. It has taken over 1 1/2 years for the Planners to prepare a block study for a very small part of Midtown. Is it any wonder why many believe there is a divide in this town? Is there any doubt that we are planning “a great city” by the seat of our pants and with our fingers crossed?

  5. While I must agree with the author that we must not put our city`s culture, charisma and heritage at undue risk and harm, I cant help but feel conflicted. As a city we have seen great change in many of our neighbourhoods from industrial hub to industrial wasteland to commercial and residential districts. Why do many of use declare this stretch of King as a Holy Grail not to be touched. Yes we must preserve our past and understand how it can help us in the future, but to preserve our past for the sake of denying it a new future is arrogant and selfish. As citizens, not simply residents and taxpayers, we must come to grips with what we believe Toronto to be and how we and our next generation of citizens can envision a future benefit from its untold future.

    Mirvish+Gehry is precisely the instrument which can guide our contemplation. While the architecture is great and Gerhy`s refinements have made it more respectful to the surroundings, I would not mind losing this building to the files of Unbuilt Toronto 3 so long as when we move forward we our confident in our vision and what it means for our future. Should we accept, we must reconcile our emotions, desires and ideas about how Toronto`s history should reflect our city.

    The bare bones approach to history in Toronto that we have taken thus fare is clearly not palatable anymore. Our citizenry desires and deserves better from our leaders, builders, officials and from ourselves. We can only hope that this ride gives need to a new paradigm of heritage incorporation into our great city.

  6. I feel like I’m reading Gullivers Travels. What did David Mirvish think he was doing asking Frank Ghery to design something notable on land that he owned. It’s shocking I tell you!

    Clearly he should buy more land elsewhere and hire someone other than Ghery to build a replica of the condos lining the Gardiner. What was Mr Mirvish thinking?

  7. I find it interesting that the proposed towers are considered unacceptable though they are already being changed in response to criticisms. As for finding a compromise solution (less flamboyant architecture requiring fewer floors and thrrefore, reducing costs) … wasn’t that one of the complaints about Gehry’s design for the AGO renovation, that it compromised too much.

    Cheers, Moaz

  8. Very well said. Thanks to you and thanks to the great leader we have in Jennifer Keesmaat. I love Hume but thought he was way off base.

    I have the same concerns. What have Mies’s TD Centre and I.M. Pei’s Commerce Court done for the city? Sure, they make the skyline great, but Houston’s skyline looks pretty decent and includes works from Philip Johnson and SOM and how worthless an urban experience is Downtown Houston? VERY worthless.

    I have no problem with great architecture and I think our skyline would certainly stand to benefit from these towers, BUT if it comes at the expense of an active streetscape – the essential ingredient to what makes a city great – these buildings will be all take and no give. Sculptures benefit the users, but a building that contributes to the street benefits us all. That’s what makes for a great city. How many architects do you know who designed central Paris, London or the most celebrated places in Manhattan? Unless you’re a scholar of historic architecture, you probably haven’t heard of any, except maybe Daniel Burnham. Modern architecture continues to struggle with activating streets the way historic buildings do, including those that may be torn down as victims to this project. While the buildings at risk of demolition may not be palaces or of great historic significance, they provide the street with a context and character no contemporary building ever could. Toronto is a new city, with very few historic buildings when compared to cities like New York, Boston and Chicago. We need to preserve and work with what we have. They don’t build them like they used to; not even Frank Gehry or Norman Foster.

    This, not to mention the fact that Downtown is in desperate need of the DRL if it wants to continue to grow with such density.

    As Jennifer Keesmaat said (and the great Ken Greenberg restated), “Most cities are clamouring for growth. We’ve got it on our doorstep. Our challenge is managing it and ensuring we get the city we want as a result.”

  9. TD Centre a worthless urban experience? It’s a brilliant one. Not every space in the city needs to be a high street streetscape. We have those, we have parks, we have ravines, we have a lake, and in a few places, we’ve got the extreme elegance of the TD Centre. Not everywhere, but here and there. The city can accommodate it.

  10. I agree with the author that it would be good to see a more concrete proposal as opposed to a series of artist’s concepts that seem to change a lot. On the other hand, I don’t agree with the importance of holding on to what’s there, assuming Mirvish/Gehry can come up with a compelling proposal. The old warehouses are nothing to write home about. And while the author and others may have seen some good shows in the Princess of Wales theatre, is it really a going concern in the present environment? If it was, surely Mirvish would want to hang on to it or incorporate it into the proposed new development.

  11. An argument against building these sculpture that makes no sense is the loss of the Princess of Wales theatre. About a year ago stories came out in the news that the theatre industry in the city had a hard time selling tickets. David Mirvish isn’t making money with the Princess of Wales and wants to replace it with these towers. He can do what he wants with his property. The people who are up in arms about loosing the theatre should ditch that argument.

    I agree with Jennifer Keesmaat’s concerns about the quality of life and whether or not this project can do that. It seems she’s developed a bit of the Toronto nimbyism in terms of height and density However it’s exactly those things that make this project great. It’s tall, it’s unique, it stands out, it demands your attention. In a project like Mirvish + Gehry you have to look the big picture. This project won’t be approved for some time, latest early 2015. Once that’s done there’s pre-construction sales, then construction which would take 7 or 8 years at least to complete. Mirvish + Gehry would not open till late 2022 which would allow the TTC plenty of time to improve the efficiency and capacity of the King street car line. Hopefully the DRL is under construction and a couple years away from completion.

    The OCAD Campus and Mirvish’s free gallery are great amenities to the area for everyone that lives/works and visits downtown. Both Jennifer Keesmaat and Chris Hume have excellent points/concerns that will be debated in weeks and months ahead. In the end the Mirvish + Gehry project should be approved because the city will benefit immensely and we would finally get over the nimby attitude that has held the city back for too long.