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“They have her curves.”

Nicknamed “the Marilyn Monroe towers” by local residents in reference to their shapely bodies, the Absolute World towers have become the new landmark in the skyline of Mississauga, a city suburb of Toronto.

The twisting, organic form of the building made it the winner of the “2012 Best Tall Building in the Americas” as awarded by Chicago-based CTBUH, a non-profit group of architects and engineers. The two condo skyscrapers, 50 storeys and 56 storeys each, are part of a five-building development off Hurontario St. and Burnhamthorpe Rd.

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Their curvaceous shape is the brainchild of young Beijing-based architect, Ma Yansong, and his firm, MAD Architects. Ma entered and won the international design competition hosted by the tower’s developers Fernbrook Homes and Cityzen. Also part of the design team are Toronto-based Burka Architects who worked on the interiors, and engineering firm Sigmund Soudak & Associates. It’s undulating appearance was achieved by rotating each floor plate various degrees, which created many challenges for the towers’ builders and engineers. This translated to a total cost of $450 million CDN for the 5 building development with more than half going towards the 2 towers.

Sales of the condo units have been swift, however, with the first tower largely selling out in 24 hours and the second in a matter of weeks. While most of the condo’s purchasers have been domestic, the buildings’ unique design has also attracted buyers from around the world, who typically have a taste for eye-catching architecture. Popular features include wrap-around balconies that offer 360 degree vistas of the city as well as floor-to-ceiling windows that are deeply recessed into the curving facade to reduce solar gain during summer months.

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All the international exposure has created buzz around the architectural community and has even produced articles from CNN and the New York Times. Such a high profile may seem surprising for a suburban condo project, but is actually in step with global trends. Many of the world’s new iconic towers are currently being built in younger, mid-size cities where they can provide an instant sense of identity. If Absolute World were to built in downtown Toronto, it would be lost amongst the other towers and quite simply wouldn’t be as appreciated as it is in Mississauga. Just as the CN Tower is to Toronto and the Sears Tower is to Chicago, the “Marilyn” towers are the exclamation point in Mississauga’s skyline.

This point is echoed in MAD Architect’s website, “Like other fast developing suburbs in North America, Mississauga is seeking a new identity. This is an opportunity to respond to the needs of an expanding city, to create a residential landmark that strives for more than simple efficiency and that provides residents an emotional connection to their hometown.”
Since winning the 2006 international competition, Ma Yansong and his firm have gone on to make a name for themselves and have designed breathtaking projects such as Fake Hills and Sinosteel Int. Plaza.
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