The wheels are now in motion for the redevelopment of Galleria Mall at Dufferin and Dupont streets in Toronto's West End, as a Site Plan Approval application has been submitted to the City for a development block near the northwest corner of the site, kickstarting Phase One of the massive project. Led by ELAD Canada and Freed Developments, the master plan designed by Hariri Pontarini Architects was approved for rezoning earlier this year, and includes 8 residential towers, over 3,400 new dwelling units, a new park and community centre, and plenty of retail scattered throughout.

Site plan showing full Galleria Mall site, image courtesy of Freed and ELAD.

Last week, Toronto's Design Review Panel gave a glowing review to the new community centre and park coming as part of Phase One, which you can read about here. The DRP then got a glimpse of the plans for Block 5, the first pair of residential towers to be constructed in the northwest corner of the site.

Rendering looking east at Block 5, image courtesy of Freed and ELAD.

Designed by Core Architects, the pair of towers will rise 24 and 29 storeys atop a 6-to-10-storey podium. The two towers will contain a combined total of 454 condo units, while 150 affordable rental units are located within the 10-storey podium. The bottom two floors are occupied mainly by retail, along with three separate residential lobbies for the two condo towers and the rental portion.

Ground floor plan, image courtesy of ELAD and Freed.

The massing of the building is conceived in three separate components. The first and second floors are an extrusion of the shape of the site, following the curve of the diagonal street. Clad with a continuous, flat glass curtain wall, the retail spaces of the lower two levels will front onto the new diagonal street through the site, and onto Dupont, and will be double-height spaces, each with a mezzanine on the second floor.

Rendering of the lower levels along the diagonal street, image courtesy of ELAD and Freed.

The second component of the massing is the remaining 4-to-8 floors of the podium. A stacked box aesthetic is used for this portion, with the boxes oriented to follow the curve of the street. For the rental portion at the northeast and eastern face, the building becomes more rectilinear, while continuing the boxy aesthetic on its outer facades.

Massing diagram of the podium, image courtesy of ELAD and Freed.

The third and final component of the massing is the two towers. Both towers are sculpted with angular faces to respond to the shape of the site on their lower portions, with more rectilinear upper portions that are skewed to match the more regular street grid beyond the boundaries of the site. Spacer floors are introduced to ease the transition between the skewed volumes and to break up the massing.

Massing diagram of the towers, image courtesy of ELAD and Freed.

The building will be clad in black metal panels, with alternating expressions of continuous balconies and glass curtain wall with vertical fins helping to define the volumes of the towers. The designers wanted a more muted expression for the building to act as a counterpoint and background to the colourful community centre across the street.

Rendering looking east, image courtesy of ELAD and Freed.

The Panel had a mixed reaction to the building, impressed with certain components, but suggesting more work needed to be done on other portions. All Panel members were very pleased with the stacked box podium to the west along the diagonal street, calling it "very lovely" and "very successful in the way it is articulated".

Aerial rendering of Block 5, image courtesy of ELAD and Freed.

With regard to the towers, many Panel members thought that they were too busy and not very coherent with the overall expression of the building. Panelists were concerned that there was "one too many ideas on the table", and suggested that the towers should be simplified or made to be more coherent with the remainder of the building. They also questioned the necessity for their complex massing, suggesting that the offset of the upper volumes added to the overly busy aesthetic.

West elevation, image courtesy of ELAD and Freed.

Panel members also questioned the north and east facades of the podium, pointing out that they seemed rather lacklustre compared to the south and west elevations. The flat facades on the north and east mainly correspond with the rental units, and the Panel urged that the rental portion be given just as much attention to detail as the condo portion. They encouraged designers to work on having better coherence across the podium as well.

Rendering of the northeast corner, image courtesy of ELAD and Freed.

Finally, Panelists were divided on the expression of the retail along the diagonal street, with some cautioning that a continuous flat glass facade "deadens the pedestrian experience". They claimed that the continuous glazing "becomes a bit tedious for pedestrians", and that "some nooks and crannies would be more interesting". While some Panel members were okay with the continuous glazing, others urged some variation to break up the monotonous facade.

Rendering looking south from Dupont, image courtesy of ELAD and Freed.

Overall, the Panel was encouraged by the work that had been done, but urged the design team to further refine the proposal, and pointed out that since it was the first residential component of the master plan, it would set a precedent for all the others to come. In the end, they voted 7 for refining the project, and 1 for redesign.

We will keep you updated as the plans for Block 5 continue to evolve, but in the meantime, you can tell us what you think by checking out the associated Forum thread, or by leaving a comment in the space provided on this page.

Related Companies:  Core Architects, COUNTERPOINT ENGINEERING, ELAD Canada, Freed Developments, Hariri Pontarini Architects, NAK Design Strategies, Perkins + Will, Urban Strategies Inc.