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Architectural styles unique to Toronto

thecharioteer

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There is something so undeniably awful about the very first house you posted that it's almost good--like an opera set that wandered offstage and is currently hunkered down humming the opening bars of some Wagner atrocity to itself.

No,no, not Wagner! Perhaps more operetta than opera? Something light and frothy like The Merry Widow?
 

thecharioteer

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Oddly enough, of all the types cited, I find the "Annex houses" the least imaginative from a purely local viewpoint. While often of high-quality design, they are no different from the sort of thing being constructed in various American cities of the period, having developed from a mish-mash of (mostly misunderstood) Queen Anne and Richardsonian elements.

I think that was imaginative about the "Annex" style was how it could be modified into different lot size configurations as well as its flexibility in adapting to detached, semi-detached and even quasi-rowhouse typologies. Perhaps its finest incarnations were on the side streets, like Madison and Bedford and on the lost streets, like St. Vincent around St. Joseph and Bay. There's very little pretentiousness about the houses (unlike the Forest Hill examples), and their adaptibility to conversion to apartments and even non-residential uses has led to many of them surviving.

One of the most influential turn-of-the-century architectural writers was Hermann Muthesius who wrote the classic 1904 treatise Das englische Haus (The English House), in which his observations could be applied to Toronto at that time.

In a 2007 review of the book, (http://www.lrb.co.uk/v30/n10/rosemary-hill/impervious-to-draughts) Rosemary Hill writes:

"England, by the end of the 19th century, was, as he pointed out, ‘the only advanced country in which the majority of the population still live in houses’. Flats were not popular, nor were town centres. No Englishman would live over a shop if he could help it. It was to the country and the suburbs that the English retreated, to houses which, Muthesius noted with approval, were ‘to live in, not to look at’, practical and unpretentious. .......What Muthesius understood specifically was that since the mid-19th century domestic architecture in Britain had undergone a revolution in the course of which a new building type had emerged to suit a new middle-class way of life. .....Indeed, after the pumped up cottages of the Regency and the scaled down castles of the aspiring high Victorians, a domestic architecture had developed in the second half of the century that produced houses more substantial than late Georgian villas but more modest than the old landed estates. These were homes born of the railway age, the age of the commuter and the weekend house party and they had acquired, by the 1890s, an idiom of their own. ‘Old English’ and ‘Queen Anne’ were the suggestive descriptions applied to buildings that obeyed no strict stylistic rules but drew intelligently on history and modest vernacular buildings, adopting the tile-hanging, red brick and half-timbering, the large chimney stacks and little leaded lights of the past and turning them into something new and comfortable. These houses, with their capacious hallways, deep inglenooks, bay windows and cosy corners (some department stores sold ready-made ‘cosy corner’ units), generated that feeling of emotional comfort, of a ‘pre-eminently friendly’ architecture that Muthesius and others on the Continent admired. It was designed to suit a large middle class, extending from the entrepreneurs and manufacturers who could commission a substantial country house, to the suburban terraces of Bedford Park and the budding garden city at Letchworth.

stvincent.jpg


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madison3.jpg
 
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thecharioteer

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Husky Boy Architecture, horseplay homes that are difficult to scuff up. Not built for beauty.

So, is this a case of architectural obesity in Toronto domestic architecture? Three generations to produce a Husky Boy?

Husky Boy's parents:

f1244_it2159.jpg


Grandparents (and extended family):

f1498_it0024.jpg
 

freshcutgrass

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Sharedgable.png


The one truly unique Toronto vernacular in that pic is the house on the far left.

I have dubbed it the Portuguese Flatfront Abomination.

With the skyrocketing values of homes in the Dundas/Ossington area, people are now buying these awful looking atrocities and re-victorianizing them.
 
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thecharioteer

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Sharedgable.png


The one truly unique Toronto vernacular in that pic is the house on the far left.

I have dubbed it the Portuguese Flatfront Abomination.



With the skyrocketing values of homes in the Dundas/Ossington area, people are now buying these awful looking atrocities and re-victorianizing them.

One would hope that these new Victorians carry through their design intent to interiors and bathroom fixtures:

Victorian_Interior.jpg
DecoratedVictorianToilet.jpg


http://www.bradbury.com/victorian/dresser.html
 
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finaleproject

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I'm actually quite surprised that you said they were "quite common" in Toronto since I really haven't seen much houses with that type of styles - especially the stuck together ones with their own porch and paved road to the house door. They really look like old houses from ages ago and I like it.
 

k10ery

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There is something so undeniably awful about the very first house you posted that it's almost good--like an opera set that wandered offstage and is currently hunkered down humming the opening bars of some Wagner atrocity to itself.

Best feature: the Corinthian pilasters, with the capitals tacked on one foot too low.
 

Urban Shocker

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Do you think an architect was ever really involved? It looks like something a client suffering from a surfeit of ostentatious "good taste" might produce with a computer program, based on all their all-time "favourite bits".
 

northto

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Mods, is this an appropriate thread for the ongoing "Toronto Style" mo/neomo/pomo/Burj-al-BaySt-box-with-a-huge-smoked-turkey-drumstick-standing-on-its-roof-pretending-we're-in-the-Jazz-Age debate? Please advise.

Jumping ahead a few decades from the properties shown above, I enjoyed this little interview with Bruce Mau on BlogTO - only a few questions, but pithy observations about Toronto's gentle urbanism.

As I am a neophyte poster, please give me some leeway if I haven't got the cut/paste below quite right. My emphasis for readability

http://www.blogto.com/arts/2011/10/bruce_mau_still_thinks_toronto_is_a_cool_place/

Bruce Mau still thinks Toronto is a cool place
Posted by Chandler Levack / OCTOBER 24, 2011 9 Comments
Last week The International Festival of Authors held an event honoring Canadian design guru Bruce Mau. In this co-sponsored launch with PEN Canada, Mau spoke about his experiences growing up on an isolated farm miles from the outskirts of Sudbury and how his desire to become an artist made him an outcast from his family. His parents kicked him out of the house after he was benched from his hockey team for skipping practice to stay late at art school. Mau was an early recipient of student welfare, an experience that solidified his belief that social systems "bet on everybody."

Mau for all intents and purposes, was an unlikely success story. He dropped out of OCAD (in his talk he claimed that he learned everything he was supposed to know in 18 months) to enter the yet unknown world of design, eventually establishing his own studio Bruce Mau Design and writing a manifesto on the process.

In an extraordinary career, Mau has worked with Frank Gehry, helped the country of Guatemala redesign their future and collaborated with clients that range from Coca Cola to the MoMA in work towards sustainable design. Many Torontonians may recognize Mau's work from a 2005 exhibition at the AGO titled Massive Change, where he showed the inherent artistry of everyday objects.

Wednesday's event also featured a reading of Mau's Incomplete Manifesto For Growth, a 43-step rulebook for designers which encourages artists to stay up late, read only left-hand pages and never enter awards competitions. Today, Mau lives in Chicago with his wife and three daughters, though he travels frequently to Toronto to continue his work with his homegrown company.

I spoke with Mau at an early reception before his talk. Here's what he had to say.

Do you think design in Toronto is evolving towards more sustainable uses?

Well there's certainly a lot of action around it. I do think that there's a particularly conscious engagement with these ideas. And it's partially the culture itself. Toronto has a very politically active smart culture that had that idea before it became popular. And now the rest of the world is waking up to it.

You live in Chicago now, but Toronto is very tied to you as a figurehead for this movement. Is it hard to split your loyalties between your new home and the city you became established in?

I love Toronto. And in fact, moving to Chicago has allowed me to see Toronto in a new way, just to see how incredibly sweet it is, and how it's such a beautiful place socially. It's very difficult to perceive the social structures, but you really see them when you go somewhere else and you look back. I come here quite regularly of course because we still have the business here. And every time I come I'm like, "Wow, this is such a cool place." The only problem would be if the Cubs were playing the Jays. I don't have to worry too much about the Leafs, do I?

You talk about Toronto as "sweet," but recent discussion has centered on the fact that it is also "ugly." Has your quality of life changed since moving to one of the greatest architectural capitals of the world?

Well the thing about Chicago that it has on its side that is that it's really extreme. It does things in a big bold Chicago way and that produces an extraordinary urban effect. A design revolution happened in Chicago. They invented the skyscraper. And we don't have that anywhere in Canada where you have a design revolution coming out of one place.

Toronto does a very gentle urbanism, it's much more middle of the road. But that has its own kind of beauty and it certainly has its own intelligence. There are aspects of the Toronto urban scene that are certainly smarter than the Chicago urban scene, here you have a much better distribution of density. In Chicago the design is not as intelligent, but it's more beautiful.

But every so often we have the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal at the ROM or the new AGO...

Toronto is not lacking for moments of intelligence. We have a lot of great stuff, but what we lack is the big gesture. If you go to Millennium Park in Chicago and you look at the other side of Michigan Avenue that defines the park on one end... I mean it's so powerful, it's undeniably brilliant. And we're a little bit embarrassed by that kind of clarity.

Do you think we're ever going to get there?

No. It's not our strength, we don't do that. We do something else. And I think you just have to love that other thing, which is also really beautiful and really smart. It's just two different kinds of intelligence.
 

old boy

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Thanks northto. Nicely put re " Toronto's gentle urbanism ". Supertalls, and such, be damned, - just ain't TO's style. We had our fling, and " embarrasment by that kind of clarity with ", the CN Tower and Skydome aka Rogers Centre. Toronto may not have the exclamation marks, but the text is there if you take the time to read it.
 

northto

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Hi Frank,

I too like the expression "gentle urbanism." I also think there is something to the notion that there is a method to our particular madness, explicit or not, whether in the mass consciousness or not.
 

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