Today we start with a selection of construction projects that we want to highlight from 2010. Today's group are reasonably early in their construction cycle. More advanced projects will appear in following reports.

Shangri-La Toronto (Westbank Corp / Peterson Group, 66s, James K.M. Cheng Architects).  Shangri-La finally reached grade in January after the deepest building dig in Toronto’s history. Barely a third complete at the end of 2010, the 214 meter, 66-storey hotel-residence is showing signs of greatness in the cladding and podium. The curtain-wall cladding, with shimmering glazing panels and integrated lighting features, is among the best we have ever seen in Toronto. The podium, which follows the turn of University Ave to Adelaide, creates a street-wall where none has existed for decades. Soon to come: the facets on the east elevation and the reconstructed Bishop’s Block. Shangri-La Toronto (Westbank Corp / Peterson Group, 66-storeys, James K.M. Cheng Architects / Hariri Pontarini Architects)

Shangri-La image by Greg January 2010

Shangri-La October 2010

Shangri-La image by SteveDecember 2010

Shangri-LaDecember 2010

Burano Condominiums (Lanterra Developments, 50s, architectsAlliance).  Burano hit the ground running in 2010 and already is hinting at greatness. The Peter Clewes-designed building just may enliven the middle Bay St canyon like no other, with its sharp angles north and south and dramatic cantilevered space at Grosvenor. Positive moves like these, and an attractive and quickly-rising window wall, augur well for the reconstruction of the heritage facade of the Addison on Bay car dealership, which remains shrouded at this time. Before construction started, this was the dealership on site. 

Dealership on Burano site image by CanadianNationalJanuary 2010

Burano site image by MikeinTOSeptember 2010

Burano site image by MikeinTO

November 2010

Burano site image by JasonzedDecember2010

Burano site image by CaltraneDecember 2010

AURA at College Park (Canderel Stoneridge, 75s, Graziani + Corazza Architects).  At 264 meters and 75 storeys, with intense speculation on Urban Toronto of it going even higher, AURA is going to alter east and west views of the city skyline forever. The biggest project start of the year began on January 8th and continued at an impressive clip right through to December. Right now, Canada's largest single residential tower is nearly at grade with the promise of it zooming skyward in 2011. Bring it on!

Aura site image by HypnotadJanuary 2010

Aura site image by GeekarooSummer 2010

Aura site image by AUK3Summer 2010

Aura site image by AUKSummer 2010

Aura site image by androidukSummer 2010

The L Tower (Castlepoint, Cityzen / Fernbrook Homes, 57s, Studio Daniel Libeskind).  It may have lost its toe but L Tower was still the coolest new project to break ground this year. Libeskind’s impossibly sloping, tapering design, much like its angular, jagged counterpart uptown, is sure to become a major city landmark as it makes the transition from computer modelling and rendering to real space and tangible materials. The toe-replacing plaza could turn out to be one of the building’s highlights, providing a much-needed outdoor gathering place for the newly-revitalised Sony Centre.

L Tower site image by Mo'tageJanuary 2010

L Tower site image by JasonzedMay 2010

L Tower site image by JasonzedDecember 2010

Residences at RCMI (Tribute Communities, 42s, Zeidler Partnership Architects).  The Residences at RCMI raises a lot of questions, not least of which relates to the way it handles heritage preservation. In this case, however, the issue isn't how little it’s preserving but how much. Most aren’t lamenting the loss of the much-altered RCMI building but rather the questionable retention of the front façade, which needlessly compromises the design integrity of the new building. Architect Tarek El-Khatib of Zeidler Partnership plans to treat the façade fragment as an artefact or two-dimensional sculpture surrounded by glass, which could work. We’ll just have to wait and see.

The Royal Canadian Military Institute, in the days of yore.

Toronto ArchivesToronto Archives

image by androidukPrior to Demolition

image by androidukDemolition throughout 2010

image by androidukDemolition throughout 2010

image by currentDemolition throughout 2010

image by currentDemolition throughout 2010

image by currentDemolition throughout 2010

Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Centre (Aga Khan Foundation, low rise, Fumihiko MakiCharles CorreaVladimir Djurovic).  The Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Centre at Wynford Drive and the Don Valley Parkway was one of the slowest gestating projects on UrbanToronto, to the point that our thread was rife with skepticism that the project would ever see the light of day. It did not help that the disused Bata International Centre, a 1965 Parkin Associates modernist landmark, had been torn down in 2007 to make way for the stalled project. When renderings finally appeared in September of 2009 the project seemed a bit closer to reality, but following months without another word, a May 9, 2010 post stating that groundbreaking would take place at the end of the month was greeted with little excitement: many on UrbanToronto had trouble believing that anything was soon to happen. May 28th, however, saw an impressive ceremony take place under huge tents, with a sizeable contingent present from Canada’s Ismaili community to witness the Aga Khan’s remarks, along with a welcome from the Prime Minister of Canada. Work on the $300 Million project has quickly progressed since, with four cranes onsite to do the heavy lifting required to realize the two buildings, the parking garage, and the extensively landscaped grounds. Designers are the distinguished Indian architect Charles Correa for the Ismaili Centre, the renowned Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki for the Aga Khan Museum, and noted Lebanese landscape architect Vladimir Djurovic for the park. While there is general relief that the project is well underway, some on UrbanToronto have called the designs too conservative, and many others are simply silent regarding it altogether. The Aga Khan and the Ismaili community are not widely known by those outside of it, so it may be unsurprising the project is currently somewhat overlooked on UrbanToronto. We believe that as the buildings take shape over the next year, more people will come around to understanding how much of an impact this new complex will have on Toronto’s cultural life in the future.

image by Craig WhiteAga Khan Centre

image by Aga Khan Foundation CanadaAga Khan Centre

image by Aga Khan Foundation CanadaAga Khan Centre aerial photo 2010

First Canadian Place Rejuvenation (Moed de Armas & Shannon ArchitectsBregman + Hamann Architects / Doyle Partners).  After marble fell from the BMO Tower at First Canadian Place in 2007, UrbanToronto was excited to hear rumours of a re-cladding program announcement in January 2008. It took much longer than that to happen however, so we were very happy when official word of the plan to replace the failing Carrera marble with fritted white glass was made in the fall of 2009. Controversially for some, the decision was made to re-clad the tower's notched corners in a dark bronze glass, adding vertical stripes to the building at its edges. Inside, the plan also includes an overhaul of tired decor and outdated mechanical systems. Nothing appeared on the building until spring 2010, and in May the three-level stages were climbing the exterior of the tower, gradually forming a screen around the top of the tower. After that it seemed as if a whole construction season was passing before the platforms dropped enough to reveal the new cladding. Once it got going however, work seemed to progress at an increasingly rapid pace toward the bottom of the building. We are only still a small proportion of the way there, and 2011 promises much more attention for this attractive makeover of our tallest office tower.

image by Craig WhiteFirst Canadian Place recladding

image by MongoFirst Canadian Place recladding

image by NiceTommyFirst Canadian Place recladding

image by SteveveFirst Canadian Place recladding

image by SodaPopFirst Canadian Place recladding

Residences of Pier27 (Fernbrook Homes / Cityzen, floor counts in the teens, architectsAlliance).  It’s just a hole in ground right now, but Pier 27 holds so much promise, its potential makes it one of the coolest holes in the ground anywhere. The architectsAlliance-designed community of buildings, engagingly-off-kilter and linked by gravity-defying sky bridges, will bring great architecture to the Central Waterfront…finally. Strong collaboration among stakeholders – the city, developers, and architects – has produced a site plan that’s second to none. Site Plan, including newer, unreleased buildings on the left (north). 

image by architectsAlliancePier 2

image by JasonzedPier 27 January 2010