Just north of St. Clair, a new rental apartment tower is being proposed on the corner of Yonge Street and Delisle Avenue in Midtown Toronto. Designed by Chicago-based Studio Gang for Slate Asset Management, the project is another step in the developer's comprehensive reconceptualization of the Yonge and St. Clair neighbourhood. 

Yonge and Delisle, 3D aerial view via Google MapsYonge and Delisle, 3D aerial view via Google Maps

With no renderings, no precise indication of height, scale, or programming, and no hint at the building's aesthetic—yet—it's already a lock to be one of Toronto's most anticipated upcoming developments. That's because Studio Gang is no ordinary firm.

Like most globally celebrated architects, founder Jeanne Gang's portfolio is full of aesthetically innovative and engaging work, including instantly iconic buildings like Chicago's Aqua tower. But it's not the flash and dazzle of 'starchitecture' that defines the practice. Instead, what sets Studio Gang's work apart is a steadfast commitment towards architecture as a socially impactful force, and the belief that built form can play a crucial goal in shaping social relations. "Our studio is interested in how architecture can build stronger communities, stronger relationships," Gang says, as quoted in the Globe and Mail.

Chicago's Aqua tower, image via Studio GangChicago's Aqua tower, image via Studio Gang

On Delisle Avenue, the hope is that the design will offer a contextually sensitive addition to the neighbourhood. While the notion of 'sensitivity' is too often a mere byword for appropriate massing, Studio Gang's approach promises to also consider the neighbourhood through its programming. "As our practice's relationship with Canada grows, we're excited to explore Toronto and to understand the unique DNA of the Yonge + St. Clair neighbourhood," says Gang. "We hope to design a building that will strengthen relationships within the neighbourhood and the city." 

Environmental sustainability will also be a strong focus. "It's not going to be an all-glass tower," Slate's Brandon Donnelly explains. "We want to push the boundaries in terms of sustainability and building efficiency, which means we are thinking carefully about the building envelope and its materials," he adds, while also citing a need to introduce more material variety to Toronto's glass-dominated skyline. 

As quoted by the Globe and Mail's Alex Bozikovic, Donnelly offers further insight into the sustainability strategy—and the economics behind it. Since the rental tenancy means that units will not be sold off to individual buyers, the developer's long-term stake in the building changes the financial incentive structure. Rental properties don't generate funds through sales—pre-construction or otherwise—but through a more consistent and dependable revenue stream for decades to come. By contrast, Bozikovic notes that the business logic of condominiums means that "real estate companies sell units and move on, retaining little or no long-term interest."

Slate's portfolio of Yonge and St. Clair office buildings, image via Slate AssetSlate's portfolio of Yonge and St. Clair office buildings, image via Slate Asset Management

Named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011 and Architectural Review's 2016 Architects of the Year, Gang is also set to receive a 2017 Honorary Fellowship from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. For Slate Asset Management, the announcement of a Studio Gang design ups the ambition of the developer's large-scaled reinvention of an erstwhile Midtown hub. The buildings have stayed the same, but the collectively imagined 'place' was gradually reduced in status to a sort of liminal zone between Bloor and Eglinton. 

So far, the developer's efforts have mostly been focused on renovating the area's existing stock of ageing commercial office buildings, many of which date back to the mid-20th century. While more active street-level programming—and a massive and thought-provoking new mural by Phlegm—promises to restore some degree of vitality to the area, the somewhat cosmetic efforts are now being met by what could prove a more meaningful addition to the neighbourhood. 

For now, though, we'll have to wait to see what that looks like, and what it means. 

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Additional information about Studio Gang's inaugural Toronto project is also available here. Want to share your thoughts? Feel free to leave a comment in the space below this page, or join the conversation in our associated Forum thread.