2010 was a year when three buildings put the colour blu -sorry, blue - at centre-stage in the Toronto construction world. The first project, Accolade, was completed at the beginning of the year, while the second, CrystalBlu was virtually complete at the end of 2010. The YMCA's Elm Centre, finally, will be complete later in 2011. All three buildings have their proponents and their detractors on UrbanToronto, and one way or another all three put the question of colour forward in a city that many find too muted.

Accolade Condo constructed by Tridel and designed by Burka ArchitectsAccolade Condo - captured by Forum member Casaguy

Accolade, a 34-storey point tower developed by Tridel and designed by Burka Architects (Burka Varacalli at the project's beginning), is located on Wynford Drive where it crosses the Don Valley Parkway north of Eglinton Avenue East. Accolade's prominent location beside the highway means that tens of thousands of people see the building on daily basis, and maybe it is the highly visible nature of the site itself that encouraged the provocative colouration of the facade in the first place. In a quieter suburban corner Accolade's bright blue would be seen as even more audacious, offensive even to some. On the DVP the building certainly stands out, but here it seems to be located, somewhat appropriately, on a stage.

Accolade Condo constructed by Tridel and designed by Burka Architects

If many Torontonians lament the lack of eye-catching colour in our buildings, would Accolade be recognized as the antidote? It has been by some, while others find it either too much of a show-off, or they never felt we needed a break from norm at all in the first place. In any case, Tridel depicted the building as blue in the promotional renderings, but never made an issue out of it in any of the advertising copy.

Accolade Condo constructed by Tridel and designed by Burka Architects

Virtually complete at the end of 2010 is Bazis International's first Toronto condominium, CrystalBlu. From the get-go, this Roy Varacalli-designed building pushed the blue theme with its name, with a blue-saurated website, and with the promotional copy: “You love the city. You appreciate exceptional design and sophisticated surroundings. You couldn’t imagine living without the sounds, the lights and the constant pulse. You’ve earned a lifestyle that includes the finer things. You are pure downtown BLU and this is your ideal address.”

Rendering of CrystalBlu by Bazis International and designed by Roy Varacalli

The rendering of the tower indicated a paler, dustier blue spandrel colour than Accolade, but what was built barely registers the tint on the bluest of blue sky days. The result would seem to be the ultimate example of the colourless gray building that many accuse all Toronto buildings of being.

CrystalBlu by Bazis International and designed by Roy Varacalli

CrystalBlu by Bazis International and designed by Roy VaracalliCaptured by Forum member Casaguy

What CrystalBlu's renderings did not show at all were the deep blue "crystals" that were chipped into the limestone facade of the building's podium. Was it negative reaction to Accolade's bright colour that caused a re-think of the use of blue tinted spandrels on CrystalBlu? Are the crystals therefore an afterthought, a concocted explanation for the building's name? Is that enough for a building that promised Blu to all who heard the message?

Podium detail on Crystal Blu

If some do not like Accolade's blue, it did not stop Hilditch Architect and regionalArchitects, the firms behind the design of the new YWCA Elm Centre in downtown Toronto, from experimenting even more boldly with the colour.

YWCA Elm Centre in downtown Toronto

While the 17-storey community facility and shelter in downtown Toronto still awaits its last brightly coloured panels, the building already sports bold patterns and multiple materials and shades of blue, with mustard accents in the bricked portion. While this approach seems to have won more admirers than Accolade's more monochromatic treatment, others find the building's facade tacky.

YWCA Elm Centre in downtown Toronto

YWCA Elm Centre in downtown Toronto

Nobody expects these decorative departures from the norm to find universal acceptance when they are built, and it's not really fair to make final judgements before the building has its final touches in any case. In the meantime it's hard to close our eyes and not offer opinions. Some viewers have already declared their love, others will come to appreciate the colour more over time, while others may appreciate the attempt more than they do the execution. Others still, well, nothing will convince some that playing with blue has yet been a good idea. The final word has not been handed down, if it ever will be, but we are certainly enjoying the conversation in the meantime.