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Monday, May 13, 2013

Breaking it down with Fabulous Facades.

Whether low to the ground or soaring into the sky, whether made of shiny glass or exquisite stone, there is no doubt Toronto’s newest crop of condo buildings is architecturally intriguing. Developers, architects and landscape professionals are creating distinctive, eye-catching spaces that will not only captivate discerning buyers but also tempt curious passersby. “[Developers] continue to look for something that makes their landmark the landmark,” says Mark Cohen, senior vice-president and founding partner of The Condo Store Marketing System. “Others are looking for something that makes their heritage preservation and existing façade integrate into a neighbourhood with new construction on top [in order] to balance history and the future.”
Mr. Cohen says the look of a building is a key factor in condo sales, with the scale model always the focal point of any sales office. Unlike yesteryear’s predictable towers, he says today’s buildings boast waves, curves, offset balconies and floors, a mix of interesting materials and heritage elements that all add to the allure.
“People associate with what buildings look like — whether they’re provocative, different, sexy or integrate into an existing area,” he says. “Appropriateness matters. Style matters.”
Here, then, is a roundup of upcoming addresses that are turning heads:
Gary Switzer thinks the Yonge and Wellesley neighbourhood “needs a little love,” which is why he is constructing a glass tower and preserving five heritage buildings to perk it up.
Called Five (naturally), the upcoming residential project features a 40-storey modern glass tower atop a five-storey podium that was once a 1905 Gothic Revival warehouse. ERA Architects is restoring the warehouse façade that will become the condo’s entry, as well as five heritage buildings fronting on Yonge Street that will become new retail hotspots. The brick façade on adjacent St. Nicholas Street will be rebuilt “but will have the spirit of Victorian-Edwardian architecture,” says Mr. Switzer, with quaint shops and cobblestoned roads. Rising above the façade on St. Joseph Street will be the podium housing heritage lofts, a rooftop garden with 13,000 sq. ft. of outdoor amenities, and 10,000 sq. ft. of indoor amenities.
From there rises a slender point tower encased with fritted glass and undulating balconies for a shimmery and wavy feel. According to David Pontarini of Hariri Pontarini Architects, the shaped and sculpted line created by the front of the balconies is a first for Toronto.
“People walking along Yonge Street will notice that the heritage buildings have been preserved and cleaned up, and if they turn on St. Joseph Street, they will see elements of the new link building,” he says. “They will also see the preservation of the 5 St. Joseph building façade. Looking up, they will see the line of the sculpted balconies against the straight, clean surface of the main tower. Turning onto the laneway, they will see a new reconstructed brick façade that matches the scale of the original façade, but incorporates new residential units within the base of the building.”
Mr. Switzer says Toronto has led the way in melding old and new. One example is City Hall, which he says was built to draw attention to Old City Hall across the street. Five St. Joseph is following suit.
“We’re not trying to replicate [the past] by doing a Disneyland pastiche,” says Mr. Switzer of melding old with new. “Architects like Hariri Pontarini specialize in combining historic with something that’s very contemporary. You try to set them off, one to the other, so that the old looks better and the new looks better by having that contrast. You end up contrasting material like the old brick, the old stone with fritted glass and stainless steel.”
Pears on the Avenue
A smidge north of Yorkville — near the corner dubbed “Av and Dav” — Pears on the Avenue will feature an 18-storey, 130-unit sleek glass tower atop a three-storey glass-and-stone podium. The idea, says Mimi Ng of Menkes Developments, was to create a “design-savvy building” that will not only offer something exciting to buyers but will add “a new dimension” to the neighbourhood.
The highlight, from a design standpoint, is a white steel frame on the north, east and south sides intended to make the building look taller and extend the feeling of spaciousness in the suites. The frame continues along the balcony loggias for a sense of enclosure while still allowing dwellers to enjoy the city view.
“The metal frame is a signature architectural element which enhances the verticality of the principal façades, adding visual interest, scale and articulation to what would otherwise have been an undifferentiated glass façade,” says Mansoor Kazerouni, executive vice-president of Page+Steele/IBI Group Architects.
He says that the “deliberately clean, modernist silhouette” is both timeless and elegant, rather than trendy or gimmicky.
“[This project] is distinctive in the sense that it does not subscribe to any current architectural trend, which prevents it from being dated and allows it to age gracefully,” he explains.
Garrison at the Yards
When Vancouver-based developer Onni Group of Companies snatched up a parcel of property at Fort York Boulevard and Bathurst Street, the most important design element became appeasing the neighbours. That is because Fort York, an historic site museum and home to Canada’s largest collection of original War of 1812 buildings, is situated right next door.
“The Fort’s success lies in its architecture’s direct expressiveness, the somewhat random placement of its buildings, and its sense of maintaining an edge against the advancing city,” says Rudy Wallman of Wallman Architects. “All of these characteristics must be reflected in the new building if it is to become a worthy neighbour to the Fort and make evident the Fort’s significance to passersby. At the same time, the new building must express the aspirations of its occupants, many of whom are attracted to the building because of its location and unique views over the expanse of the Fort.”
Since city guidelines insisted construction cannot cast shadows on the fort, Garrison at the Yards will be a midrise. The eight-storey podium, which Onni spokesperson Sue Young describes as “shaped like a boomerang,” will feature a pattern of vertical panels of red brick that pick up on Fort York’s heritage elements. The randomly spaced panels flank the balconies and create a rustic effect against the four floors of glass above. The retail space at grade will have a glass curtain wall with recessed entrances, which Mr. Wallman says will provide visual breaks in an otherwise continuous expanse of glass.
With the Gardiner Expressway close by, the south wall was given special treatment. Prefinished aluminum panels will create a two-tone colour pattern reflecting the random brick piers on the east and north façades and will also capture a sense of the movement inherent in the passing vehicular traffic. Says Mr. Wallman: “The pattern is arranged in a Morse code message that welcomes passersby to the Fort York neighbourhood.”
Garrison at the Yards is the first building in Onni’s master-planned community called The Yards that will add 1,100 residences to the Fort York neighbourhood.
Chaz on Charles
Just south of the busy Bloor and Yonge intersection, the folks behind Chaz on Charles are touting a 39-floor, 420-suite glass tower that will sit atop a five-storey limestone podium.
Longtime developer Jason Fane bought the property in the 1990s and waited for the right opportunity to go after his dream of building towers in Toronto and New York. After a chance meeting with a city councillor several years ago at a Toronto International Film Festival gala, Mr. Fane learned the city was encouraging increased density near subway stations and he knew the time was right. The only question was what look to go after.
“There are a large number of buildings [in Toronto] that, however well they are executed, are just glass shoeboxes turned on end,” Mr. Fane says. “This was a great architectural innovation but it goes back almost 60 years now. We decided to take a different approach and have a more interesting shape.”
Chaz on Charles eschews the traditional rectangular. Rather, Mr. Fane calls it a “complicated” shape that involves 45-degree angles, eight corners, and columns exposed over five floors at different heights. The intriguing design means two-thirds of the units are corner units — or eight per floor. Crowning off the building will be the Chaz Club, a two-storey party zone encased in floor-to-ceiling windows for a spectacular downtown view.
At pedestrian level, the tower will be set back from the sidewalk to encourage a feeling of distance between Chaz and the buildings on the other side of the street. The sidewalk will be widened and flower-filled, making the frontage “feel like a great boulevard,” Mr. Fane says. The top of the five-storey podium will be at the same height as the building next door, “allowing for a five-storey street wall.” A number of three-bedroom condos will be situated in the podium.
For the moment, Mr. Fane is content to continue dreaming about his Manhattan high-rise while he puts his energies into Chaz on Charles.
“People here have difficulty imagining just how bad things are in a lot of other places like Las Vegas, Miami, Greece and Spain,” he says. “Toronto is a happy city. By comparison to just about any place in the world, this is the place to be.”
Taken from the National Post
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