When designing a new development in a heritage district, rich in historically significant architecture, there are two common approaches; use a style that mimics the architecture and context or, alternatively, reinterpret the context in a modern vernacular. Of course, sometimes architects simply go off the boards entirely. Freed Development’s Sixty Colborne, a 25-storey architectsAlliance-designed condominium proposed for a parking lot at King and Church, isn’t so easy to lump into one of those choices, with a seemingly very abstract interpretation of its surroundings, and no mimicry of older architectural styles or standard use of materials.

Let's look at the existing built form of the immediate surroundings.

Rendering of Sixty Colborne

Even though Sixty Colborne is named for a short street running west off of Church, the most important context here is not what is right across Colborne to the south, or Church to the east, or King to the north, all streets that the development is bordered by (they are all important though too, no letters please!). What is most important here context-wise is what is kitty-corner from Sixty Colborne to the northeast: St. James Cathedral and its surrounding park.

We see the cathedral's space primarily as one of historical importance for the city in terms of heritage architecture, and for its recreational value as a significant green space, but another claim to fame here is that until the turn of the 20th century, the King and Church intersection was home to the tallest structure in Toronto.

St. James Cathedral at King and Church, image from Google Streetview

The 305 foot tall spire of the Gothic Revival styled St James Cathedral is by far the most dominant architectural feature of the immediate area. Sixty Colborne would end up shy of the height of the Cathedral’s spire, proposed at 25 storeys and 270 feet tall, its added shadow not reaching beyond sidewalk on the church's corner.

Rendering of Sixty Colborne

Across Colborne Street to the south of the project is the well-loved Milburn Building, built in 1886 in the Richardson Romanesque style by legendary Toronto architect E.J. Lennox. It rises four storeys and contains various businesses including retail shops, restaurants and offices. 

Sixty Colborne site on the right (parking lot) with Milburn Building on the left, image from Google Streetview

To the west, the heritage block of 71 - 95 King Street East has recently been proposed for redevelopment as well, though the proposal of 47 storeys and the partial destruction of the heritage properties on-site has not gained much traction with City of Toronto planning staff.

95 King East with Sixy Colborne's sales centre visible on the left, image from Google Streetview

In most redevelopment scenarios, the low-rise nature of these brick and mortar style neighbours would usually be complemented by a similarly hued podium. aA took that road with their Market Wharf development, and executed it beautifully, but the firm’s spin on contextualism seen in Sixty Colborne’s design is a pronounced step away from the ordinary. 

Rendering of Sixty Colborne's podium

Instead of mirroring the earthy red and buff hues of neighbouring brick buildings with a lookalike substitute, the podium will feature a skin of metallic orange glass frames, an intriguing method of matching the warm tones of the proposal’s historic neighbours. Arches and pillars clad in a mottled filigree add a distinctly modern and contrasting textural touch.

Detail rendering of orange glass frames

The combination of playful cladding below and irregular staggered floorplates of the tower above come as somewhat of a surprise from an architectural firm known for minimalist design and precise, machine-like repetition. architectsAlliance is also known for buildings with well executed, high quality finishes, almost always living up to their portrayal in market renderings.

Rendering of Sixty Colborne's podium

We will be sure to return with updates as this unique proposal works its way through the planning and approvals process. In the meantime, additional information and renderings can be found in our dataBase listing, linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the associated Forum threads, or voice your opinion in the comments section provided at the bottom of this page.

Related Companies:  architectsAlliance, Carttera Private Equities, FirstCon, Freed Developments, Johnson Chou Inc., Kentwood, PSR Brokerage