UrbanToronto News - the latest headlines
OMB Settlement Leads to Design, Usage Changes at 470 Wilson
ALSO


TVO: What's Wrong With Toronto Condos?

pman

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 20, 2009
Messages
1,347
Likes
854
#16
I think it's a little facile to blame our politicians for the poor design of recent condos. First, we elect these bozos, so to a certain extent they have to reflect wider public opinion. Second, let's be honest. Toronto has always been an ugly, utilitarian city unconcerned with either esthetics or even construction quality. Sure, we did create some lovely old buildings, many of which we tore down, but mostly the city has always been a shabby, decrepit, third-rate slum. We seem to be fine with a low-quality, aggressively ugly and dysfunctional public realm, so it's unclear why we should expect anything better from private developments. Finally, the identikit condo genericus that has come to take over our city could be from almost anywhere on the planet. We're not so special, and given our record of city building, we shouldn't expect anything better. I'd go so far as to argue that most of the new condos are a trade up from the surface parking lots, strip malls, unused private green spaces around sixties towers, and completely undistinguished two storey retail buildings they generally replace.
 

M.R.Victor

Active Member
Joined
Sep 9, 2012
Messages
224
Likes
136
Location
Toronto
#17
"a shabby, decrepit, third-rate slum" See, this is what I'm talking about when I was hoping to hear a more nuanced argument.

Also anecdotal, but I overheard a couple of muggles on the bathurst streetcar decrying the loss of Honest Ed's to "yet another f*cking condo". Why that proposal, among all others, does not deserve to be painted with the oh-so-broad toronto-complainer brush will server as my exhibit A.
 

telefann

New Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2018
Messages
4
Likes
10
#19
And when somebody like this visionary architect at the exciting new firm PARTISANS courageously attempts to change the conversation of city-building here in Toronto, we smack his ideas down. We shrink into a fatalistic state of "things will never get better because they haven't in the past". This is classic tall-poppy syndrome, embedded into the Canadian cultural psyche as hockey and maple syrup. I think the major problem we have in Toronto is really our attitudes toward ourselves. Our EXPECTATIONS of ourselves. Do we demand the best, not just as politicians, but as a COLLECTIVE POPULACE? Or do we settle for also-ran and first-loser? A lot of the forum members here have the right idea: what level of performance do WE, not just the mayor and the chief planner, but the public at large, expect?

The reason why this city is mired in mediocrity on so many counts, from its shabby transit system, to its financial parsimony, to yes, its forgettable architecture, is not a lack of potential. We are as diverse, globally connected, and prosperous as ever. It is solely a function of a toxic post-colonial, self-diminishing mentality that, even in 2018, rears its ugly head every time we are called on to do anything beyond the barely functional, minimally decent, and stingily penny-pinching. It is why this city, so young and full of promise, will not become a 22nd-century Singapore or London or Hong Kong if we continue along our current path. Of course, here we go again: do we WANT ourselves to achieve and perform at the level of a first-tier, first-rate international city in the future?

Let's take architecture, for example, the very topic being discussed here. Artistic taste may be subjective, but overall QUALITY of design is anything but. We Canadians often have this bothersome propensity of doing things on the cheap, not giving a damn about quality of work and seriousness of purpose. Head to any other leading nation in the world, including our Trumpified neighbour to the south, and the difference is GLARING.



New apartments in Copenhagen. Certainly not the most artistically interesting, but there is clearly a SOLIDITY and PERMANENCE to its build quality that is admittedly hard to describe in words (though "sharp", "defined", and "attentive to detail" may come to mind) and yet undoubtedly lacking here in Toronto when it comes to our most recent built forms. For god's sake, is Denmark really much more well off than Canada? If not, then what excuse do we have in reducing our architectural discourse to "wavy balconies on a shoddy glass box"?

And of course, they have much more of this:







Even in Asia, which is supposedly too "fast-paced" to emphasize "quality over quantity":




Yes, a "glass tower" if one really wants to stretch it, but look at the attention to detail. Look at the elegant symmetry. Look at the quality of build and the sophisticated, detailed attention to the urban realm.



And then you take a look at the crap we're putting up back home in the Great White North and wonder if a little more QUALITY and DURABILITY, never mind extravagance, will really starve our developers', architects', and builders' wallets. And no, I'm not "cherry-picking". Here in poor old Canada, we don't bother to try...









I look at projects such as the lipstick-on-a-pig Aura, the shabbily asymmetrical INDX, the cheapened St. Lawrence Market North, the amputated L-Tower, the de-beautified Frank Gehry towers, and that vomit-pile of Entertainment District grey glass we call "multi-unit residential buildings", and realize how cheap this place is. Not any different from the ignorantly backwards leaders we elect (for ****'s sake, why the **** are we still debating the ****ing Relief Line?).

People, if we are serious about REALLY perpetuating change in our societal attitudes, more of us ought to get active in the all-too-important conversations of how our city, province, and even country is being built. And yes, that means setting the bar real high. Yes, that means demanding FAR more from the folks that make this place go round. Yes, that means "going for gold and not settling for bronze".

Why isn't a more beautiful city an election issue? We raise so many timid, self-centred NIMBYistic objections during community meetings whenever new developments are built, never bothering to give a flying **** about how it will actually contribute to our cityscape.

We can do better. There is a young generation of "YIMBYs" popping up that has little patience for civic parsimony. This great city is desperately waiting for them to tug the reins of leadership away from the old, conservative guard, epitomized by none other than the Fords and John Tory. For a city so wealthy and diverse, where is our Naheed Nenshi? Where is the voice of forward-thinking boldness, never mind "progressivism"? Calgary built a stunning red foot-bridge across the Bow River. Here in Toronto, a FAR more powerful, influential, and dynamic place, we can't even get a damn bike lane built.

Let's hope that these young YIMBYs will really change the conversation about how this city ought to look in what remains a promising future. Because beauty is more than unnecessary extravagance at a higher cost. Beauty is what makes or breaks a place's image to the world. Beauty is what defines the difference between a lot of economy-boosting tourist dollars and hardly any (do shantytowns ever make postcards?). Can we muster the will to invest in it more?

In what remains a place full of potential, we desperately need to shift our attitudes from pessimism and "can't-do" to an attitude of true openness and possibility, if not straight-on optimism. Toronto is a young city, for god's sake!

I may sound quite brash and condescending. But as someone who grew up here, I love this city enough to put on the "tough love" hat when I feel like it. And for societal change to occur, some will inevitably need to be offended. It's called progress, a badly-misused term in these quarters. And progress won't occur in a place that seems constantly at war with itself. I believe in our capacity to do better, but the ultimate choice is ours. Will we seize the opportunity?
 
Last edited:

Irishmonk

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 29, 2007
Messages
1,758
Likes
539
Location
Hanoi, VN
#21
The eye-wincing fails around Dundas Sq alone is enough to make me cry. South core isn't much better. There is a bewildering and frustrating lack of pride in the city. it almost seems to be part of Toronto's DNA.
 

telefann

New Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2018
Messages
4
Likes
10
#22
The eye-wincing fails around Dundas Sq alone is enough to make me cry. South core isn't much better. There is a bewildering and frustrating lack of pride in the city. it almost seems to be part of Toronto's DNA.
It’s almost paradoxical given our diversity and prosperity that there is almost no reflection of that in our built form. Will this “cultural DNA” thing change with the multicultural young generation? That’s what I believe will really make or break our attitudes toward civic responsibility in the future. I think we do have a great opportunity to shatter the mold, if only we handed the keys to power to a cohort of Millenials and Gen-Zs that actually care. We desperately need to get out of this vicious cycle of fatalism and indifference that will only cripple our city in the years to come.

I do see some hopeful signs, with the new crop of “YIMBYs” that are popping up. The question is whether this apparent newfound pride in the city will also translate into a much more discerning taste for good design.

There will always be skeptics, but I’m also highly doubtful that future residents here will tolerate crap to nearly the same degree as some of us do right now. So to those who say that the building of bland glass boxes will continue, I actually beg to differ somewhat, given an increased attention to good design in this city that is actually beginning to take hold in some quarters, I feel. Some of the proposed projects, like the 3XN, Bjarke Ingels, and of course The One are of a quality that would undoubtedly have been unimaginable even a decade ago. These developments are certainly raising the bar.

Sure, the general public may never really regard architectural quality as a profound issue, but at least there will hopefully be a critical mass of urban activists and leaders that do.

Also, the new architectural firm presented in the video, PARTISANS, is one of the few in these quarters that are not afraid to challenge or even criticize the status quo. They’ve done some exciting work so far.

Any thoughts?
 
Last edited:

old boy

Active Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2009
Messages
620
Likes
225
#23
Well this is a city that smashed the mold with the new city hall , followed by Black towers of the TD Centre and the once tallest free standing structure anywhere- the CN Tower. So there must be something in this brash place's DNA to allow this kind of bravura, and optimism. We just need our Austin Powers moment to get that mojo thing going again.
 

telefann

New Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2018
Messages
4
Likes
10
#24
The 1960s were a more heroic time for Toronto and Canada in general. Coming out of the Depression and WWII, our leaders back then had the hunger to strive forward with unabashed boldness and optimism. Just look at when the vast majority of our infrastructure and transit was built.

This mentality has since disappeared. Life if good these days, so complacent mediocrity will do the job. Few of us today dare to truly aim high anymore; look at our city council. How many visionaries can you find? Only Joe Cressy and the recently-departed Jennifer Keesmaat come close. The rest are conceited second-rate non-leaders unwilling to lead.

Only a "kick-in-the-butt" will wake this place up from its now-ingrained culture of apathy, I'm afraid. Are we waiting for a crisis?
 

bran

New Member
Joined
Jul 8, 2018
Messages
21
Likes
13
#25
I think quite a lot of condos actually look great, but there are definetly a few that stand out as being gross or having obvious bad aspects
 

syn

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 26, 2007
Messages
3,887
Likes
1,215
#26
It’s almost paradoxical given our diversity and prosperity that there is almost no reflection of that in our built form. Will this “cultural DNA” thing change with the multicultural young generation? That’s what I believe will really make or break our attitudes toward civic responsibility in the future. I think we do have a great opportunity to shatter the mold, if only we handed the keys to power to a cohort of Millenials and Gen-Zs that actually care. We desperately need to get out of this vicious cycle of fatalism and indifference that will only cripple our city in the years to come.

I do see some hopeful signs, with the new crop of “YIMBYs” that are popping up. The question is whether this apparent newfound pride in the city will also translate into a much more discerning taste for good design.

There will always be skeptics, but I’m also highly doubtful that future residents here will tolerate crap to nearly the same degree as some of us do right now. So to those who say that the building of bland glass boxes will continue, I actually beg to differ somewhat, given an increased attention to good design in this city that is actually beginning to take hold in some quarters, I feel. Some of the proposed projects, like the 3XN, Bjarke Ingels, and of course The One are of a quality that would undoubtedly have been unimaginable even a decade ago. These developments are certainly raising the bar.

Sure, the general public may never really regard architectural quality as a profound issue, but at least there will hopefully be a critical mass of urban activists and leaders that do.

Also, the new architectural firm presented in the video, PARTISANS, is one of the few in these quarters that are not afraid to challenge or even criticize the status quo. They’ve done some exciting work so far.

Any thoughts?
On some level I feel like the condos we get are designed to not offend - they're generic enough to 'appeal' to anyone.

The ultimate result is buildings that aren't appealing at all - it's 'lowest common denominator' architecture.
 

syn

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 26, 2007
Messages
3,887
Likes
1,215
#27
Well this is a city that smashed the mold with the new city hall , followed by Black towers of the TD Centre and the once tallest free standing structure anywhere- the CN Tower. So there must be something in this brash place's DNA to allow this kind of bravura, and optimism. We just need our Austin Powers moment to get that mojo thing going again.

Let's not forget the SkyDome.

Fortunately things do seem to be improving relative to the first decade of the century.
 

telefann

New Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2018
Messages
4
Likes
10
#28
Let's not forget the SkyDome.

Fortunately things do seem to be improving relative to the first decade of the century.
We're certainly getting a larger number of standouts, namely Mizrahi's The One, Mirvish + Gehry, and Bjarke Ingels, perhaps a natural outcome of Toronto's increasing economic/demographic clout. As for the overall quality of architecture, however, our current vogue of cheap, cluttered, charcoal-grey paneling pretending to be see-through glass represents a definite low point in aesthetic integrity and taste. There was once a time when this city, much smaller and poorer, built consistently in a solid, dignified manner that measured up. With the advent of 21st-century materialistic greed, that era is long gone.











These late-20th-century apartment complexes hardly qualify as flashy or even distinguished, but the effort, however slight, is apparent.

In the years since, our modern mantra of disposable cheapness has, on the other hand, generated a wave of visual calamities...










Do any of these recent developments come close to holding a candle to what came before? The pictures speak for themselves.

That Toronto is becoming littered with Architecture That Doesn't Try is a sign of our general attitude of jaded cynicism these days. The paradox of our increasingly "diverse" existence is a civic spirit that has become stripped of much of its former energy and ambition. As syn has commented, our pursuit of offending the least (political correctness?) results instead in a culture of stifling timidity. Our recent condo architecture, much of it tastelessly banal, is a reflection of this new culture.
 
Last edited: