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Podiums

buildup

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In toronto we are seeing every effort to retain low-rise historic structures around and within the base of towers.
Is this primarily a desire to protect historic structures or is it an acknowledgment that modern architecture hasn’t delivered satisfying solutions at street level?
Are there examples globally of successful street level commercial solutions that are completely new?
It seems the current approach, of keeping facades is pleasing but intellectually lazy.
 

Skeezix

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It's not the worst example of heritage facadism in Toronto (that honour, IMHO, goes to the Shoppers Drug Mart at Danforth and Ellerbeck), but it is certainly the worst example of a heritage facade used as part of a tower podium. Awful.

Keeping heritage structures, facades or otherwise, isn't intellectually lazy. It is just too often done poorly.

And, yes, in this City condo architecture generally has a very poor track record of delivering satisfying solutions at street level. While Planning staff and other stakeholders typically wring their hands over height, no one pays enough attention to how the projects meet the street and how the ground level commercial space will be tenanted.
 

Northern Light

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In toronto we are seeing every effort to retain low-rise historic structures around and within the base of towers.
Is this primarily a desire to protect historic structures or is it an acknowledgment that modern architecture hasn’t delivered satisfying solutions at street level?
Are there examples globally of successful street level commercial solutions that are completely new?
It seems the current approach, of keeping facades is pleasing but intellectually lazy.
Some facades are worth keeping for their beauty, or their historiocity.

But unquestionably some are retained because that's a power the City has to force some measure of aesthetic value either in beauty or in terms of sympathy to surrounding buildings.

The City can not, normally, dictate aesthetics in detail under current planning rules.

There are some exceptions, such as when 'Section 37' benefits come into play, and the aesthetic of the proposed building is determined as part of that benefit.

But the use of the preservation power for designated properties is an easy go to; and an understandable one; even if its sometimes been terribly executed; and in others
a new build of quality might have been preferable.

This corner to me shows 2 positive examples of what we're discussing.

On the north-east, you see a preserved facade/building as part of a larger redevelopment at teh corner of King/Jarvis.

While on the south-east, you see an all 'new build', which while imperfect, makes a good effort to play well w/the architectural flavour of the St. Lawrence neighbourhood.

https://www.google.ca/maps/@43.6502751,-79.3718895,3a,60y,42.84h,100.89t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1siVg5CAf7JrwNW9mMoO0CRA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656
 

buildup

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It's not the worst example of heritage facadism in Toronto (that honour, IMHO, goes to the Shoppers Drug Mart at Danforth and Ellerbeck), but it is certainly the worst example of a heritage facade used as part of a tower podium. Awful.

Keeping heritage structures, facades or otherwise, isn't intellectually lazy. It is just too often done poorly.

And, yes, in this City condo architecture generally has a very poor track record of delivering satisfying solutions at street level. While Planning staff and other stakeholders typically wring their hands over height, no one pays enough attention to how the projects meet the street and how the ground level commercial space will be tenanted.
The funny things about mjl108's post is that wasn't even the original Admiralty Club (or whatever its name) because the previous structure was rather shabby.
So this ornate facade completely replaced it - I don't think it even bears a resemblance.
If Toronto didn't take itself so seriously, we'd include this on the visitor bus tours for amusement's sake.
 

buildup

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Some facades are worth keeping for their beauty, or their historiocity.

But unquestionably some are retained because that's a power the City has to force some measure of aesthetic value either in beauty or in terms of sympathy to surrounding buildings.

The City can not, normally, dictate aesthetics in detail under current planning rules.

There are some exceptions, such as when 'Section 37' benefits come into play, and the aesthetic of the proposed building is determined as part of that benefit.

But the use of the preservation power for designated properties is an easy go to; and an understandable one; even if its sometimes been terribly executed; and in others
a new build of quality might have been preferable.

This corner to me shows 2 positive examples of what we're discussing.

On the north-east, you see a preserved facade/building as part of a larger redevelopment at teh corner of King/Jarvis.

While on the south-east, you see an all 'new build', which while imperfect, makes a good effort to play well w/the architectural flavour of the St. Lawrence neighbourhood.

https://www.google.ca/maps/@43.6502751,-79.3718895,3a,60y,42.84h,100.89t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1siVg5CAf7JrwNW9mMoO0CRA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656
Thank you Northern Light. I agree that is a good effort on the new structure as it complements the very fine historic building on the adjacent corner.

What I'm trying to understand is how large modern towers can solve the street element. The only successful solutions I've seen are the monumental podiums like TD Centre which are grand. But as 50-60 story residential towers start to spring up, what are successful examples that address fabric?

One reason I wanted Mirvish Gehry to be allowed to raze the block was to see what a brilliant architect and a devoted artist-citizen of Toronto would come up with.
But we got cold feet and fell back on a safe solution incorporating the original warehouses. The result looks promising, but I'd have liked to see an original attempt to solve this challenge.

For example - what if the frontage of each retail unit was modular? For example a bookstore, nail salon, coffee shop could easily order it materials (from the developer) to have them 'attached' to the street level frontage. A new retailer moves in, down it comes and something new goes up? In a way, that is exactly what happens inside some shooping malls.
 

Northern Light

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Thank you Northern Light. I agree that is a good effort on the new structure as it complements the very fine historic building on the adjacent corner.

What I'm trying to understand is how large modern towers can solve the street element. The only successful solutions I've seen are the monumental podiums like TD Centre which are grand. But as 50-60 story residential towers start to spring up, what are successful examples that address fabric?

One reason I wanted Mirvish Gehry to be allowed to raze the block was to see what a brilliant architect and a devoted artist-citizen of Toronto would come up with.
But we got cold feet and fell back on a safe solution incorporating the original warehouses. The result looks promising, but I'd have liked to see an original attempt to solve this challenge.

For example - what if the frontage of each retail unit was modular? For example a bookstore, nail salon, coffee shop could easily order it materials (from the developer) to have them 'attached' to the street level frontage. A new retailer moves in, down it comes and something new goes up? In a way, that is exactly what happens inside some shooping malls.
If I may be so bold as to re-interpret your question..........."What makes a good podium/street level"?

The answer to that will obviously vary by circumstance, in as much as there are towers on streets where retail is not, and never will be present, the solution is almost purely aesthetic with a possible nod to 'eyes on the street'.

But in so far as the majority of development is occurring on main streets that do feature retail......

I think I might start a list this way:

All shipping/receiving and any parking entry must be via rear laneway/side street etc. In the event there is no other choice but to place said entry on the main artery, the need is not only to minimize the size of said entry (particularly the cross-section) but but also to make it blend as seamlessly as possible into the streetscape.

Thereafter, I would assert that retail needs to have adequate height, but not be out of proportion in height to the surrounding retail district.

Put another way, most (not all) good podiums will 'blend' rather than stand out.

That does not mean 'excellence' isn't important. One can utilize high-quality materials, and some details, while still having the scale and massing relate well to the neighbourhood.

There is a need to invest in a better material pallet and often a warmer one.

Most of Toronto's main street retail is in brick buildings. There is absolutely a place for stone, or even well-formed, high-grade concrete. However, there is a gross over-use of
pre-cast in Toronto, most of which looks abysmal.

Retail leasing strategies need to be contemplated to avoid the un-ending use of window-wrap. Its a complete deadener.

Finally, signage and its ultimate placement needs a good deal more thought.

Most good looking signage is either historical/faux historical in that its 3D lettering anchored to backboard and lit from the front/overhead/underneath.

Alternatively its 3D light-up lettering.

What almost always looks crap is backlit signage; but also poorly thought out awnings or signs within store windows.

Detail matters.

I don't know how much of the solution lies in being more prescriptive through government.

Though that may form part of the solution.

But there is clearly a deficiency in the way we educate architects that so much drek gets made in respect of podiums.

It would not cost that much more, to do SO much better.
 

buildup

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I think you've hit it. Sounds like since its really about consideration to details, its something an architect should take on as a sub-specialty - like landscaping. When I really visualize what fails its the details:
- chipped pre-cast that doesn't join the side-walk
- raw columns that obscure the entrances, or faux-gothic flying buttresses
- dusty or tinted windows (the fault of the tenant?)
- packing crates, files, computer equipment stacked inside the window
- pools of water or dripping from the concrete canopy etc
- IEF that appear stapled over the older structure
- Fake brick - fake anything.
- And very often its a sloppy tenant like a low-end generic pizza or falafel shop
- paving that is mismatched from the sidewalk
- Broken sidewalks
Sounds like a new specialty to me.
 

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