In recent years, Toronto's feverish building boom has captured the imagination of many urban development enthusiasts and architecture buffs, and counted amongst that number are professional illustrators Robert Koopmans and longtime UrbanToronto Forum contributor Scott Dickson. The two recently collaborated on a depiction of how our city's skyline may come to look as currently planned and under-construction projects are built out, painting a startling picture of Toronto's future built form.
Following up on a previous iteration released in 2012, the photorealistic image above by Dickson was published recently by Toronto Life. We recently got our hands on the base image provided to him by Koopmans, who has been creating building models over the years for skyscraperpage.com. Koopmans' placed his models in a GIS application, scaling them and locating them in relation to each other, and then presented as seen from across Humber Bay. We thought it would be fun to look more closely at this annotated image, looking more closely at the buildings which will make up our future skyline.
We are starting at the north end of the image, in Toronto's posh shopping destination of Yorkville. That area has been attracting new levels of residential density in recent years, with luxury condominiums making up the bulk of new high-rise development. A few of these buildings are already under construction, including Cumberland at Yorkville Plaza and 1 Yorkville, while others like Bay + Scollard (labelled here as 48 Scollard) are working their way through the planning and approvals process.
One step to the south, the neighbourhood's height peak at the corner of Yonge and Bloor is occupied by the topped-off One Bloor East (marked here as 'Number One Bloor', an earlier marketing name) and Mizrahi's planned The One, an 80-storey luxury condo tower primed to become one of Toronto's tallest buildings. A rapidly-growing corridor of condominium towers continues to reshape Charles Street two blocks to the south, where the topped-off Casa II is being joined by a third phase under construction to the east. This corridor of residential density bleeds east across Jarvis and into the St. James Town neighbourhood, where a cluster of rental and condominium towers like 601 Sherbourne and The Selby are adding more residents to an improved but already densely populated area.
The area of Downtown that includes the Church-Wellesley Village and the Yonge-College intersection has been the site of immense intensification since the start of the decade, with many new additions planned and under construction. The tallest building under construction in the frame below, Wellesley on the Park—its below-grade levels now being completed—will eventually rise 194 metres just west of Yonge. The tallest proposal pictured in the area is for one of two residential towers at 475 Yonge Street, the taller one could reach a height of 220 metres. A more recent proposed rezoning at 2 Carlton which is too new for the model compilation is looking for approval for a pair of 233-metre tall, 72-storey towers.
Just to the south, some of Toronto's tallest proposed heights are clustered around the Yonge and Gerrard intersection, where recent addition Aura at College Park now dominates. Ambitious and sometimes audacious proposals are now popping up for adjacent properties, the two largest of which are the three-tower Chelsea Green at 33 Gerrard West, now proposed as two 88-storey towers and one 49 storey tower, while 8 Elm Street immediately south of it is proposed at 80 storeys on a narrow mid-block site. Not pictured behind these proposals is YSL at 385 Yonge, which was originally proposed as 73 and 62-storey towers, but which will be resubmitted in an as yet unknown reconfiguration.
Continuing to move south, the skyline cluster becomes tighter as we enter the Entertainment District and the Financial District. The most notable proposal shown in the view below is Mirvish+Gehry Toronto, which was recently submitted for Site Pan Approval and is gearing up for its long-anticipated marketing rollout. Approved at a height of just under 305 metres, Mirvish+Gehry's taller tower would dethrone First Canadian Place as Canada's tallest building, a title it has held for over four decades. The tallest structure currently under construction in the image is Massey Tower on the far left, which is ascending towards an eventual height of 207 metres.
Finally, the south end of the panorama takes in the rest of the Financial District and Entertainment District skylines while introducing Toronto's nascent South Core. The tallest structure proposed in this view is the 307-metre tower at the 1-7 Yonge site, which could overtake the approved Mirvish+Gehry development as Canada's tallest. The tallest building under construction in this frame is the east tower of the Harbour Plaza Residences condominium development, which is fast approaching its final height of 237 metres.
As we mentioned above, Koopmans' base image was Dickson's starting point. Using Photoshop, the illustrator then spent over 100 hours carefully re-skinning—in some cases with Koopmans' model skins, and in other cases replacing them—touching up lighting, and slightly repositioning notable structures that would otherwise be obscured. Dickson then blended the modified base image in with an existing stock photo captured from Etobicoke's Humber Bay Shores area.
Comparing the polished and base images in the diptych below, subtle differences in building positioning are revealed along with the more photorealistic building skins. One of the most notable differences is the CN Tower, which Dickson replaced entirely to better highlight nearby proposals. Slight post-processing artifacts in the tree line at the bottom of the beautified image provide further insight into the blending process.
Some year in the future, Toronto's skyline will look something like this. Some buildings won't be built as pictured, some won't be built as soon as others, while some entirely new proposals will inevitably pop up and surprise us with their quicker-than-exepected rise. Dickson says of the image says that it can be seen as "informational, but ultimately it's a 'postcard' to the dynamic change to the built-form of the city… not exactly scientifically perfect, but hopefully inspiring and entertaining." Only time will tell just how close Koopmans and Dickson got to reality!