We are covering only three projects in today's review, but these are three standouts, three milestones, three landmarks - call them what you will - which despite not being completed in 2010, have to various degrees all begun to change both the skyline, and the city... two cities in fact.
The Ritz-Carlton, soon to open on Wellington Street west of Simcoe, is the first of our studies today, and the first building that UrbanToronto.ca officially toured after the relaunch of the site in early 2010. The building brings both a five-star hotel from a chain that many have long wished had a presence here, as well as a very high end condominium tower. Designed by US-based international architectural firm Kohn Pedersen Fox, the building spots clean lines, but canted ones too: the south wall leans out as it rises, and then turns at the penthouse to create a peak over the building's north facade. The Ritz now makes for one of the most distinctive profiles on Toronto's famous skyline, especially when seen from the Gardiner Expressway when approaching the core from the west. By January 2010, the Ritz was already most of the way up, with cladding quickly following the rising form work.
The peak began to take shape in March 2010.
In April, UrbanToronto was welcomed into the building for a tour that took us throughout the building, including up to the roof.
By July, the peak was glazed. Doors for the penthouse balcony remain to be installed.
The podium was positively glowing by night as of the annual September arrival of the Toronto International Film Festival, much of which takes place within a couple of blocks of the Ritz.
Now in December, exterior work is essentially finished, while work goes on in the interior in preparation for the February 2011 opening of the hotel.
No new building in Toronto gets as much traffic on UrbanToronto as the Trump Tower, another five-star hotel and very high end luxury condominium tower by Talon International with Zeidler Partnership Architects. While the Trump still has a significant portion of its construction still to come, the hotel's website currently predicts a summer 2011 opening. Certainly a quick finish to this project would make a lot of UrbanToronto members happy: the building's design is certainly unlike anything that has ever gone up in this city before - maybe any city - and a number of questions about the design remain unanswered. With a very tight site, with a mix of cladding elements, and with a a seemingly huge variability in the height of individual floors, despite the fact that the tower currently rises approximately two thirds of its final height, it seems impossible to gauge its final impact on the skyline. In January of 2010 when the construction was at about 16 floors, all of the talk on UrbanToronto was about the cladding which was finally being installed. Was the gray granite going to look good after cleaning? Were the green spandrels too green? How would the cladding hide all of the odd floors, such as the parking garage, and the back-of-hourse hotel facilities, where there was more concrete wall than window?
By October the tower had grown to about 38 floors, and the cladding reached up to the 30th. Many UrbanToronto members registered their consternation with the lack of regular fenestration on many of the tower's lower floors, especially on the east wall.
This November image shows the south wall, including the arc-shaped balconies at the 31st and 32nd floors. The balconies came as a surprise for most, with no detailed renderings having shown them. With the hoists running through them, it takes a great deal of effort to imagine the final effect of these features as well.
Now in December the cladding has recently been installed down to ground level, and the tower itself seems to be slowly creeping skyward. At about one floor every two weeks on average over the year, the slow growth has been noted by many on the forum, impatient to see a finished building.The growth, at half the speed of the average tower, is an indication of just how complicated this building's structure is.
Will Trump's various exterior elements look like a cohesive whole when all is said and done late in 2011? There's certainly no indication yet that UrbanToronto members will agree on that, as current assessments of the building's exterior are decidedly mixed, and seem rather entrenched. More than any other element we await the building's topping quarter dome as it fits into the financial core's neighbouring towers.
Finally, we arrive at a building that engenders more admiration than any other on UrbanToronto, while at the same time it generates a considerable amount of jealousy. Why? Because this international design competition winner is in Mississauga, not Toronto, and some members cannot manage a kind thought when it comes to TO's western neighbour. Absolute World towers D and E, at 56 and 50 storeys respectively, are amongst the most amazing buildings being built anywhere in the world currently. With oval floor plates that rotate between 1 and 8 degrees which each new storey, the buildings have silhouettes unlike any others. The slinky, sexy curved torsos catch light in seductive ways, while the buildings seem to reach out to caress each other, always in different ways from every different viewpoint around them. Catch Absolute World in your view and you are hooked, called to stare and explore them in an attempt to understand it all, but the undulating massing always promises another surprising view, leaving the viewer with notions of delights that remain to be discovered. In January of 2010 only one of the two towers had as yet made an appearance, and the curves were just starting to show.
Four months later in May, Tower E was now growing and Tower D was hinting at how wild the rotating floor plates would get.
In July UrbanToronto was invited in for a tour, and we went to town looking for unique angles.
August and September brought more views, with the growing clad area having us take more notice of the reflections of sunlight.
No other building on UrbanToronto has been shot from so many distant viewpoints.
Now in December, the taller tower - Marilyn - has been topped off, and her companion has nearly reached his full height too. Balcony glazing now adds a blue tint where it has been completed.
Over 2011 we look forward to the completion of the towers, as well as the as-yet-undecorated podium. We are also curious as to how these two buildings will shape the future of architecture, not just in Mississauga, but in all of the GTA. As other cities around the world embrace leading edge architecture, it is our hope that Absolute World is just the beginning here. We have seen the future arrive at Burnhamthorpe and Hurontario, and we want it to spread across the Greater Toronto Area. One simply feels thankful looking at these towers, and wants the opportunity to feel that way in may corners of our great metropolis.