The 2016 Serpentine Pavilion, originally designed for Kensington Gardens in London by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), has been re-erected on King Street West in Toronto—full height, which it was never completed to in England—and is now opening for an eleven-week-long exhibition, showing off both BIG-designed projects around the world, and five projects that the world-renowned architectural firm has created for Westbank Corp in Vancouver, Calgary, and here in Toronto.

BIG's 2016 Serpentine Pavilion, erected in a Toronto King West parking lotBIG's 2016 Serpentine Pavilion, erected in a former King West parking lot, image by Craig White

That includes the joint venture project with Allied Properties REIT that Westbank is building on this site. Designed in homage to Moshe Safdie's Habitat at Expo '67 in Montréal, KING TORONTO will consist of 4 'mountains' rising as high as 17 storeys and containing approximately 480 condominium suites. Lower levels will include a public courtyard in the middle of the site, linking the vibrant King West area via a new park to The Well, another Allied project that it is currently constructing with other partners a block to the south, plus retail and restaurant space, and office space. Several heritage buildings on the site are being retained, with the new build essentially bridging over them.

The KING TORONTO model inside the pavilion, image by Craig WhiteThe KING TORONTO model inside the pavilion, image by Craig White

The project is atypical for Toronto, rejecting the podium and tower approach that is the basis for the vast majority of new buildings that rise here, and Vancouver-based Westbank—who entered the residential market in this city with the Shangri-La Hotel and Residences on University Avenue at Adelaide, and are now redeveloping Mirvish Village at Bloor and Bathurst, and 19 Duncan, a 58-storey rental and office tower a few blocks to the east in the Entertainment District in partnership with Allied again—are doing the atypical here too, opening this exhibition before marketing gets underway in earnest for the new development: the underlying thought must be that if you're going to go BIG, go big!

Looking into the pavilion, image by Craig WhiteLooking into the pavilion, image by Craig White

The pavilion is created out of 1,802 fibreglass 'blocks' (squared tube sections, really) which form a transparent wall at the top, but which unzip, creating an undulating pocket as the walls hit the ground. The pavilion is not weatherproof: on a rainy day, you'll likely get wet in here.

The exterior of the pavilion; one wall at the top, bulging near the ground, imagThe exterior of the pavilion; one wall at the top, bulging near the ground, image by Craig White

The 10 highlighted projects, each with a full model plus photos, renderings, recordings, and text to pore over, are displayed from one end to the other, BIG's world projects on the west side, Westbank and BIG collaborations on the east side. Through all of the exhibition, the patron-client relationship is highlighted, with an emphasis on the quest for creative solutions to the unique built form, social, and environmental conditions of each site: the projects are typically multi-use, and go beyond the standard commercial/residential mix to include such forward-looking uses as district energy supply and multi-building heating/cooling.

Exhibits inside the Serpentine Pavilion, Toronto, image by Craig WhiteExhibits inside the Serpentine Pavilion, image by Craig White

Yesterday, Ian Gillespie, President and founder of Westbank, and Bjarke Ingels, founder and creative partner at BIG, led reporters on a tour of the pavilion and its exhibits. With wooden boardwalk underfoot, the pavilion is surrounded by both artificial grass in areas that are expected to receive high foot traffic, and naturally landscaped berms around the former parking lot's edges.

Ian Gillespie, President of Westbank, and Bjarke Ingels of BIG, led a tour of thIan Gillespie, President of Westbank, and Bjarke Ingels of BIG, led a tour of the pavilion for reporters, image by Craig White

Ingels and Gillespie talked about all ten of the projects exhibited, focusing on the special attributes of each. World projects covered are…

  • MECA: Maison de l'economie Creative et de la Culture en Aquitaine in Bordeaux
  • Superkilen: a half-mile long urban space transformation to knit a Copenhagen neighbourhood together
  • LEGO House: Exhibition, retail, and tourism centre in Billund
  • ARC: Amager Resource Centre waste-to-energy plant in Copenhagen
  • The BIG U: extension of Manhattan's land mass to work as flood protection

BIG/Westbank collaborations covered are…

  • Vancouver House: residential and retail development where the Granville Bridge forks
  • Telus Sky: an office/retail/residential tower in Calgary
  • BEAT: a steam district utility plant in Vancouver to have an office tower and sports bar built above
  • Greenhouse: District Energy, rooftop greenhouse, and tourism/education centre in Greater Vancouver
  • KING TORONTO

Ingels describes design moves behind MECA, soon to be completed in Bordeaux, FraIngels describes design moves behind MECA, soon to be completed in Bordeaux, France

We will look at the projects in more detail in upcoming stories, but in the meantime, you can take in the exhibition for yourself. Unzipped opens Saturday, September 15, and will run through to Friday, November 30, 2018, 9 AM until 5 PM, seven days a week at 533 King Street West. Admission is free. You can learn much more about the upcoming Toronto project from our database file, linked below. You can get in on the discussion by visiting the associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.