Only a few decades back, the thought of taking a leisurely stroll along the harbour’s edge in Toronto would have been inconceivable, and acting upon said thought would have been a perilous if not downright impossible task for any great stretch. Over the last couple of decades however, the transformation of our harbour's edge has been dramatic, and it continues to evolve still into a thriving mixed-use community and recreational area for citizens and visitors alike. While the wharves were once lined with port-related industrial facilities, those uses have since moved east, but for one, the Redpath Sugar refinery. Now an isolated waterfront industrial landmark, it will soon have hundreds of new neighbours at Cityzen Developments and Fernbrook Homes’ new Waterlink at Pier 27 condominiums. 

Pier 27 viewed from the L Tower, image by L Tower crane operator Rob MacFarlane

The architectsAlliance-designed development, the first two phases of which are made up of four 11-storey buildings, are joined in two pairs each by 3-storey skybridges that perch atop the towers. The four slab-like towers run perpendicularly from the harbour, framing the view of water and islands when viewed from the north, while creating a symbolic set of doorways to the city at the foot of Yonge Street when viewed from the south.

We recently had the privilege of touring the project with our cameras in hand. Stepping onto the construction site, one’s eyes are immediately drawn towards the yet-to-be-clad bridges, the unaligned ends of which hover dramatically beyond the towers' edges. We will climb up to those in an upcoming installment, but for the time being, let's get a better look at the lower 10 floors of this complex.

Pier 27's skybridges, cantilevered over the building's edges, image by Jack Landau

Cladding now covers much of the lakefront quadruplets, each pair sporting its own distinct scatter of spandrel panels amidst the windows, distinguishing the two pairs of connected towers from each other and avoiding monotony while still retaining a coherent feel.

Cladding covering much of the eastern tower, image by Jack Landau

Eastern tower cladding, image by Jack Landau

Cladding difference between the eastern and western towers, image by Jack Landau

When you look closely, you will see that the three western towers are not simple rectangles, but that they each have projections angling out starting at the fifth floor. The irregular layout and staggered balcony design means the some of the glazing cannot be cleaned by window cleaning platforms attached by ropes from the roof. In spots here a system of hooks has been anchored into the fifth floor balconies where necessary, allowing workers to easily access to these windows.

Hooks to support window cleaning equipment, image by Jack Landau

Of particular note in the image below is the very slender footprint of the easternmost tower. It is what is known as single loaded, with suites on only one side of the hall. With wide but shallow suites off the one side of that hallway, this building has less than half the east-west depth of the other three towers. So, why is it only single-loaded? The story comes back to the sugar refinery to the east: industrial and residential uses don't always mix well, but the City wants Redpath and its good jobs to stay, so the east building has its own buffer between the two land uses built right in.

Pier 27 viewed from Toronto Harbour, image by UT Forum contributor udo

Here's how that building looks as part of the scale model of the project. The east façade is clad in a thick, durable, precast concrete cladding punctuated only by irregulary patterned ribbons of clerestory windows.

Eastern wall as seen on the scale model, image by Jack Landau

Below is what a hallway looks like behind that cladding currently, with precast panels attached to conrete beams and each other.

Hallway with precast panels amouring a poured concrete skeletal structure, image by Craig White

Quite thick and mostly windowless, this wall will work as a noise buffer and safety feature, should an unlikely industrial incident occur at the adjacent sugar refinery. Below, caulking is being applied to the spaces and fittings around the panels. Compare with the as yet uncaulked section above.

Eastern wall viewed from within the building, image by Jack Landau

Outside at the south end, the wall has now been covered in a backing on which the final cladding will be installed. 

Angled south edge of the eastern wall viewed from within the building, image by Jack Landau

Looking down along the building's southeastern edge, image by Craig White

Inside the towers, work is progressing. Plumbing, electrical, metal studs and drywall are complete on many floors, while others await this work. In the image below, this bare concrete corridor has seen the plumbing go in, while spools of wire are ready for installation soon.

Roughed in corridor awaiting drywall, image by Jack Landau

Metal studs await installation in this suite with south and west views, while glazing is up on the west wall. Curtain wall hybrid units await installation along the south side here.

Future condominium unit without southwest exposure, image by Craig White

Future 2-storey unit facing west along Queens Quay, image by Jack Landau

Much work is still be done at ground level around the buildings, as the future landscaped areas are currently in use as staging grounds and work areas for the towers. Along the western and southern edges of the site will be public parkland including boat slips, a boardwalk, seating, trees, and greenery. As well as enjoy the new parkland here, the public will also be able to walk between the Harbour and Queens Quay via the landscaped grounds which separate the west pair of buldings from the east pair. The courtyard between the two west towers and the one between the two east towers will however be private recreation and relaxation areas for the residents of Pier 27.

The fence towards the left will be the eastern terminus of the promenade ending at Redpath's property line, image by Jack Landau

Space between the two eastern towers, future public promenade visible on the left, image by Jack Landau

Space between the two eastern towers, note the future swimming pool towards the bottom right, image by Jack Landau

Besides the bridges up top, each pair of towers will also be connected by a glazed walkway at ground level. The walkway will allow views through from the city side toward the lake and islands, while sheltering the pool areas from the wind.

Covered walkway connecting the western towers, image by Craig White

Covered walkway connecting the eastern towers, image by Craig White

We have much more of Pier 27 to show you, including the fantastic city and water views, and a thorough look at those fascinating skybridges, so we will return with our two more installments. Until then, please visit the dataBase listing posted below for additional information, including building facts and renderings. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out one of the associated Forum threads, or voice your opinion in the comments section, provided below.

Related Companies:  architectsAlliance, Cityzen Development Group, Fernbrook Homes, Isotherm Engineering Ltd., Jablonsky, Ast and Partners, Studio Munge, The MBTW Group | W Architect Inc, Walters Group