Tag Archive: Toronto


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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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A cutting edge condo project is being proposed for a nondescript part of northern Toronto, in what may be a ‘shock and awe’ development for local residence. Designed by UK architect Will Alsop with the interiors by Toronto-based Quadrangle Architects, its architecture is unlike anything currently existing in the city. News of ‘Alaska’ has already stirred up conversations online with comments ranging from “a great leap forward” to “looks like someone slapped an egg carton on a block of cheese.”

The glacier inspired building is separated into two distinct components: the 7-storey podium that will be wrapped in a fabric-like woven steel screen, and the 3-storey cantilevered glass-clad structure that is reminiscent of Alsop’s famous Sharp Centre for Design OCAD building downtown.

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“The client was looking for something a little different,” remarks Alsop. “She also wanted to do a different type of interior. You can slide inner walls so that bedrooms become balconies. You can open your whole apartment to the outside. We’re trying to keep the units as open and flexible as possible.”

The client, former architect Bianca Pollak, added “I believe this part of Yonge needs something. I see this as an opportunity to do something. When Will is involved, the results are always extraordinary. We’re all very excited.”

Another bold move by Pollak is to build one full floor of underground public parking, a move perhaps to dampen the expected opposition to the project by local residence.

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The development, which is to be located on Yonge St. & Strathgowan Ave. (between Eglington & Lawrence avenues) is expected to be submitted to the City’s planning department in the coming weeks with community consultations to follow.

Forward-thinking designs always attract strong opinions… what do you think about ‘Alaska’?

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© Artkitecture 2012. All rights reserved

The Creative Impulse

cre·ate (verb) to evolve from one’s own thought or imagination, as a work of art or an invention.

Working in the architectural field for the past 16 years has been quite a journey, from working late nights to meet deadlines to seeing for the first time your work built and occupied by people. I have always fashioned myself as a creative person and it is one of the main reasons why I chose this profession. However, as the years have passed, I have found that the time spent on the creative aspect of the business has slowly been replaced with budget spreadsheets, scheduling charts and uninspiring, cookie-cutter projects. All in the name of “putting food on the table”.

But just like other creative people out there working 9-5 jobs but creating in their off-time, I needed an outlet. That’s when I discovered photography. A funny thing happened though, I found myself mostly photographing architecture… talk about ‘coming full circle’.

Living in Canada, I was limited to photographing domestic architecture as I haven’t had much opportunity to travel in recent years. The muted colours of most of our buildings along with the un-cooperative weather at times resulted in many of my photos lacking vivid, punchy colours. Through experimentation with photo editing, I discovered pops of colour could easily be added to my photographs, but more interestingly, ‘what-if’ scenarios could be also be explored visually.

Questions like “What if the glass atrium was lit up turquoise blue at night?”

It might look like this:

Museum of Nature in Ottawa

Or “What if the ROM had wavy window frames to offset the straight lines of the white cladding?” It might look like this:

Toronto ROM

All of a sudden architecture was exciting again, somewhat like playtime is for a child. At the very least, this new-found discovery would provide the creative outlet I was longing for… at most it would help spark conversation and engage others about what could be possible in our cities heading into future.

This creative journey is just beginning for me and my hope is many of you out there will join me or even perhaps start your own journey into this fascinating world.

Happy Travels!

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