Sugar Wharf Condominiums (Phase 2) | 299m | 90s | Menkes | a—A

Lachlan Holmes

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Personally, I have quite an affinity for simple, elegant, and austere architecture - international style being an early example; neomodernism being a more recent example. Traditionally, I've found aA to execute on these designs very well, and frankly, they're probably my favourite Toronto firm.

These towers, however, are not strong.

I don't mind the wraparound balcony trend, myself. I especially don't dislike them when the alternative is more than likely just the window wall being made more prominently visible - and ultimately, wraparound balconies have the advantage of covering up spandrel, mullions, etc. in favour of a cleaner, but simpler exterior expression. (A good example is the tower on Stanley Condos, which would have been absolutely brutal with it's window wall had it not been for the strongly fritted wraparound balconies)

But if you're going to employ wraparound balconies, there has to be an investment in attention to detail and overall design cleanliness to end up with a quality end product. Unfortunately, while these are usually some of aA's strong points, I'm not seeing much evidence of them here.

For example, let's look at the heights of the floors on the towers. A quick eyeing of the renders show that there are about a dozen floors that don't conform to the standard floor height used here (which is 2.95 metres, in case you were wondering) and while I haven't had the time to look too closely through the plans, I feel pretty safe in making the educated guess that those floors are used for booster pumps or other mechanical uses necessitating the increased floor-to-floor height.

While I'm not an expert on these things in any way, I am under the understanding that there are ways to reduce the number of these floors and/or the visual impact of them. Take for instance the condominiums at Harbour Plaza, which are two very similar towers to the currently under-construction Sugar Wharf towers by the same architect and developer, which have no visible variations in floor-to-floor height (other than penthouses) except for one or two storeys with presumable mechanical uses at about 2/3rds of the way up, enabling a much cleaner, more aesthetically pleasing design.

Casa 2 does the same thing - a single visible floor for presumably mechanical uses about half way up the tower - and it results in a clean, aesthetically pleasing, and well geometrically proportioned tower. Compare that to these, which have a jumbled, inelegant, haphazard, and cheap look about them, in a large part because of the variation in floor-to-floor heights.

If whatever system or design used at Casa 2 and Harbour Plaza to enable the uniform floor heights had been employed here, for me at least, it would solve one of the weak points of the design.

Then there's the shift in balconies on the squared towers. I imagine the design rationale for that is to break up the height or create visual interest or something like that. I don't think it's working. It seems to me like another haphazard, jumbled element of the design, and I'm not convinced that it's a better design option than just keeping all of the balconies in line. If you paired that with fixing the varying floor heights, you may be moving towards an understated, but attractive tower. I'd much rather that, a simple and plain well-executed building, than a poorly-executed building with design for the sake of design that's doomed to fail.

Longer post than I was planning, but in summary - I don't like these, and not because they're simple or boring, but because they're simple done poorly and cheaply.
 

Yegger

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This second phase is really bleak and is not promising at all. I can't imagine quality materials will help the relentless monotonous facades but I hope the balcony treatment will be refined closer to construction. These are too generic to be on the waterfront, and look downright silly next to Pinnacle One Yonge.
 

ProjectEnd

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Key difference is Pinnacle chose the best architect in the city. HP nearly always delivers. aA makes their living on building bland towers.
Oh, more buildings with soulless wraparound balconies on every floor. I wonder who the aArchitect is.


It's funny how different HP and aA have become. I remember when aA used to actually deliver some nice designs, like Four Seasons, Burano, and others. Now, they're just doing the Casa formula ad nauseam. Meanwhile, HP has essentially pioneered curved glass in this city and incorporates more curtain wall on residential buildings than any other architect. Even on developments with a tight budget, HP often delivers really nice results with what they're given (ex. Garrison Point), while aA produces the same recycled trash with progressively less and less attention paid to the details (compare their latest works to Ice, their designs at the Distillery District, etc.).

The only saving grace is that aA tends to do nice podiums, and these renderings are no exception.
There's a 'to each their own' element here, but the claims made above are just patently untrue.
 

Riseth

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This second phase is really bleak and is not promising at all. I can't imagine quality materials will help the relentless monotonous facades but I hope the balcony treatment will be refined closer to construction. These are too generic to be on the waterfront, and look downright silly next to Pinnacle One Yonge.
I doubt Menkes is going to spend more money on balcony treatment just to appease us UT members. Besides, I'm not sure how much the quality of materials will even help when the overall design is this bland and monotonous. Just balconies stacked on top of balconies.
 

UtakataNoAnnex

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I doubt Menkes is going to spend more money on balcony treatment just to appease us UT members. Besides, I'm not sure how much the quality of materials will even help when the overall design is this bland and monotonous. Just balconies stacked on top of balconies.
It seems to have helped Phase 1, so I'm putting my bets on that.

...keep in mind though, I am personally not into blocky buildings unless they incorporate Brutalist elements. So the glass ones are even more annoying IMO. That said, good materials go along way of making these more attractive. As one of the hallmarks for me in good design if there's a lot of love being put into the building(s) being constructed.

One that note though, I'm not sure why readers are not noticing those imposing columns proposed for the one tower. When constructed, they'll likely blow everything out of the water here. And in very good ways.
 

Ciarlandini

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Offensively un-offensive, but at least we've seen that the quality of Sugar Wharf Phase One seems to be better than initially expected. Let's hope that quality continues.
 

The Preservationist

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Looking at the latest rendering not sure a 200+m wall of 5 or 6 horizontal white striped buildings near the water's edge is something the city should aspire to. Think the folks west at One Yonge have got that design covered. Couldn't the developers here add a bit of variance?
 
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Yegger

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I doubt Menkes is going to spend more money on balcony treatment just to appease us UT members. Besides, I'm not sure how much the quality of materials will even help when the overall design is this bland and monotonous. Just balconies stacked on top of balconies.
I wasn't saying that the project will change to appease our opinions. I was referring to how Phase 1 showed for the longest time general massings with limited details about the balcony treatment. Only closer to construction did they start to release renderings outlining the architectural expression.

Essentially, i want to keep the hope alive that we will get something a bit more unique than what is being shown.
 

Riseth

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I wasn't saying that the project will change to appease our opinions. I was referring to how Phase 1 showed for the longest time general massings with limited details about the balcony treatment. Only closer to construction did they start to release renderings outlining the architectural expression.

Essentially, i want to keep the hope alive that we will get something a bit more unique than what is being shown.
I got that but even with Phase 1, the updated renderings and balcony patterns didn't make them any better IMO.

Both phases suffer from being far too bland and aesthetically unappealing and lack any real architectural quality. I personally don't like the look of balconies stacked on top of balconies x5, it just looks too claustrophobic/drab and no amount of quality materials/balcony patterns will make them any more appealing to me but to each their own.

What's even worse is that these towers will become the face of the city for decades to come and when you compare them to what used to dominate the lake view, the contrast becomes even more disappointing.
 

Star Fox

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I fail to understand why Menkes can't provide something with interesting balcony treatment (e.x. One Bloor East) at this location that will undoubtedly command a premium price from purchasers.

The weird thing is that the front tower actually has uniquely shaped floorplates and seemingly curved balconies. But because they're simply repeated over and over (with one rotation about halfway up), it just looks like any other tower. If Menkes could just rotate the floorplate 5 degrees each floor, it'd create a striking tower (and create more sunlight on all the balconies).
 

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