Depending on the circumstances, it can be hard to tell apart the 'Toronto of the Future' from the Toronto of the present. Looking across the massive 3D scale model of the city's Downtown that now dominates the Metro Hall rotunda, it takes a careful look—and an up-to-date mental map—to tell apart what's already there from what is yet to come. In a city changing as quickly as ours, the Toronto of the Future exhibit that has taken over the rotunda until June 30th offers a valuable opportunity to take stock of impending changes, and to reflect on the projects that will shape the city's growth in years to come.  

Hariri Pontarini's scale model of Toronto, image by Craig White Hariri Pontarini's scale model of Toronto, image by Craig White

While some long-awaited infrastructure projects like the relief subway line—or, of a more recent vintage, Rail Deck Park—are arguably still more hoped-for than anticipated, the relentlessly changing nature of our city makes Toronto hard to pin to down. "We aren't Barcelona, we aren't New York, we aren't Amsterdam, and we aren't Copenhagen," Chief Planner told the audience at Toronto of the Future's launch party last night. "We're Toronto."

Keesmaat on the podium, with UrbanToronto's Craig White at right, image by MominKeesmaat on the podium, with UrbanToronto's Craig White at right, image by Momin Ahmad

But what exactly does that mean? Characterized by constant erasure and re-invention, assessments of Toronto still occasionally invoke the slightly tired Peter Ustinov quote of "New York operated by the Swiss," or the saying that it's "Vienna surrounded by Phoenix." Urbanistically, the two notions aren't exactly analogues. Instead, their commonality lies in the fact that both define Toronto only in relation to the more established mythologies of elsewhere (yes, even Phoenix). As Keesmaat pointed out, a more assertive city won't come about "unless we imagine it." And that, for the Chief Planner, is "why this event is so important."

A scale model of WilkinsonEyre and Zeidler's Eaton Centre Bridge, image by CraigA scale model of WilkinsonEyre and Zeidler's Eaton Centre Bridge, image by Craig White

Occupying the Metro Hall rotunda, Hariri Pontarini Architects' huge model of Downtown Toronto is surrounded by scale models and presentation boards. The projects range from the imminent, like the model of WilkinsonEyre and Zeidler's under-construction Eaton Centre Bridge, to the purely conceptual, like WZMH Architects' model of a megatall building—exceeding the CN Tower in height—built atop the silos at Bathurst Quay. 

Blue-sky thinking by WZMH Architects, image by Craig White Blue-sky thinking by WZMH Architects, image by Craig White

Other highlights include a fascinating series of Foster + Partners' scale models for The One, which lay out the iterative chronology of a very complex planning and design process. This year's architectural exhibitors include Kohn Pedersen Fox, Quadrangle, Brisbin Brook Beynon Architects, Diamond Schmitt, Valladares+Turner, Icon, +VG, Alva Roy, and B+H Architects, among others. 

This year, UrbanToronto also join the exhibit as Platinum Sponsors. Our exhibition boards showcase the tallest proposed and under-construction buildings in the city, as well as our picks for the most transformative projects to watch for in the coming years!  

The Metro Hall rotunda, image by Craig White The Metro Hall rotunda, image by Craig White

All of the projects on display point to the future. Whether the buildings are already under construction or still the stuff of imagination, the showcase invites Torontonians to think about our city, to conceptualize it as a changing place, and to critique—and feel a sense of agency over—the path Toronto is taking. As the opening night's MC, UrbanToronto's own Managing Editor Craig White, pointed out, building a better city means very different things to different people.

A scale model of The Well, image by Craig White A scale model of The Well, image by Craig White

Among UrbanToronto's 27,000 + Forum members, a wide range of architectural sensibilities abound, White explained. "But the one thing that 99% of us agree on is that we don't want any more grey," he stressed, admonishing the developers and architects in the audience to think beyond "back-painted grey spandrel" as an architectural solution. While imagining a city is, as Keesmaat pointed out (with invocations of Benedict Anderson) an intangible undertaking, White offered a more concrete baseline. Whichever city we will into being, it doesn't need any more grey spandrel. New York or Vienna; that's not a bad start. 

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Co-presented by the City of Toronto and Oxford Properties, Toronto of the Future is on at Metro Hall daily until 9PM, until 5 PM on its closing date of June 30th. UrbanToronto / SkyriseCities' join this year's roster of participants as Platinum Sponsors, so keep an eye out for our presentation boards! More information about Toronto of the Future is available via the event's official website, linked here.