Toronto

KING Toronto | 58m | 16s | Westbank | Bjarke Ingels Group

interchange42

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Yes, that immediately stood out to me as a bizarre sentiment. Why would they intentionally and persistently try to thwart such an imaginative proposal in favour of banality? What kind of a message does that send to developers: don’t bother bringing your A game; we prefer duds? One would think that city planners would want to lionize the developers and architect for putting forth such an exceptional plan for this site.
I was told "We believe that King Street is special enough." In other words, their concern was that this proposal would take away from the converted warehouse buildings which now dominate the area as offices and restaurants, and they wanted new development further back from those buildings, and the way to do that was to push the density higher into a typical point tower, with a podium that's much smaller than the footprint of the development we are getting. It was a subjective call in regards to preserving the neighbourhood character.

I'm glad the Planning Department vision is not coming to pass, but I am also glad that version 1.0 isn't either.

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That image did have me concerned, and from the first public consultation I asked for something less relentless along King, (with more variation in the diagonal cube wall), and that pulled back more from the heritage buildings. Those were among the changes made, and I think the massing below is a massive improvement.

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Because this project did - and still does - have issues. Specifically access to sunlight. I certianly get giving some leeway for creativity - but the tower and podium formula is so popular for a reason, and that is that it works. It creates density with about as few impacts on the environment as possible.
With the surface pretty much entirely reflective now (other than where it will be planted), and with greater separation in the courtyard, with lower total height, and finally with larger openings for the pedestrian paths, I'm not too concerned about that now. I believe there will be a lot of reflected light in the courtyard owing to the myriad of sawtooth surfaces. We will no longer get this first image…

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…we'll get something closer to this second one—although it would be a few years before it were this green:

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This project when first proposed was essentially a gigantic 16 storey hulk that would loom over the entire district. It killed a lot of mid block connections this stretch of King is famous for, and presented an unrelenting street facade along a significant portion of King west, again, an area known for the exact opposite with its various warehouse buildings and lanes bringing people deeper into the blocks.
That's not true actually: the mid-block north-south connection was always part of the plan. It's more open now though, and they now own the land on the Wellington side of the block where they'll put the cat-themed park in, so we are a huge step ahead in terms of a permanent connection there.
The development has since rectified a lot of these issues - but if you ask me is still going to end up being over-scaled and monolithic in nature. I'd love to be wrong though.
It'll certainly still be impressive in size, but they've added enough articulation, reduced enough bulk, and lightened that cladding enough to have mitigated my concerns, anyway.

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smably

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Despite some obvious frustration from Allied, it sounds like the process here actually worked as intended. I think the result is fantastic -- it preserves everything that was so special about the design of the original proposal while mitigating the urban design issues that planners were concerned about.

The risk is just that the cost of these extended negotiations would be too much to bear for all but the most committed developers, most of whom would have likely switched to something more conventional rather than spend two years working with the planning department to find a solution that doesn't compromise the design.

In any case, I'm glad this is getting built and I hope sales are so wildly successful that it inspires more of this kind of architectural experimentation!
 

interchange42

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Despite some obvious frustration from Allied, it sounds like the process here actually worked as intended. I think the result is fantastic -- it preserves everything that was so special about the design of the original proposal while mitigating the urban design issues that planners were concerned about.
For the process to be declared as 'working as intended', the Planning Department should have been pushing for what we got, not for a podium and tower. We are only getting what we are because Westbank and Allied refused to back down to significant pressure.
The risk is just that the cost of these extended negotiations would be too much to bear for all but the most committed developers, most of whom would have likely switched to something more conventional rather than spend two years working with the planning department to find a solution that doesn't compromise the design.
Correct. Less experienced, less established developers would have had to cut and run with something more conventional. That does not mean, however, that a less experienced, less established developer couldn't come up with something worthy despite being unconventional. The danger is, therefore, that smaller firms, often those with younger principals who still dare to dream a little, will have their experiments quashed. Planning departments do have to rely on formulas against which to test designs, and that's fine for most proposals—the more typical ones—it works fairly well for most, but we do need to find ways to make it less arduous to create exceptional buildings when it's merited.
In any case, I'm glad this is getting built and I hope sales are so wildly successful that it inspires more of this kind of architectural experimentation!
Me too!

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smably

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For the process to be declared as 'working as intended', the Planning Department should have been pushing for what we got, not for a podium and tower. We are only getting what we are because Westbank and Allied refused to back down to significant pressure.
For sure. In an ideal world, planning would be willing to advocate for unconventional designs when they bring value to the city. That they weren't, and that they brought an adversarial attitude to the negotiations is concerning. But the process is "working as intended" to the extent that we didn't end up with a podium and tower. That means that planning was willing to show some flexibility in the end, at least when dealing with a developer with a vision and deep enough pockets to work with them for two years.

But yeah, this is a success that looks like it will be hard to replicate.
 

AlvinofDiaspar

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From the 1:50 Elevations dated Sept 20, 2018:

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(Westbank/Allied/BIG/Public Works/ERA)

AoD
 

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argus

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While the vine-covered renderings are rather alluring, it would be interesting to see a full detailed rendering without the greenery (not that I dislike it). There is no guarantee that the building will be so plant-covered when it is built, so it would be interesting to see the most updated design with the building not obscured.
 

Contra

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Do we know if there will be any agreements put in place similar to Museum House that will require the building to maintain the greenery? This is obviously at a much, much larger scale.
 

argus

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Do we know if there will be any agreements put in place similar to Museum House that will require the building to maintain the greenery? This is obviously at a much, much larger scale.
Interesting that you bring up that topic. Way back in the early stages of defining the building that question was raised at a public meeting. The developer suggested that plant care might be included in the overall maintenance of the building. Hopefully it will be.
 

ptbotrmpfn

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The last pic just above there is a model of a tower behind the model of this project... ? What is that... looks pretty neat.
 

alklay

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Damn this is going to be fantastic. I just hope that local architects and developers feel a bit guilty now when they submit their plans for yet another mediocre condo project.

(ok, we know that is not going to happen. But I can dream, right?)
 
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