Can the current condo boom create quality neighbourhoods?

From today’s online Globe and Mail:

“The problem,” he says, “is that the downtown core, where a lot of tall buildings are being constructed, is not an area I would want to live in. It is not an issue of height and density, but of neighbourhood quality.”

This quote is from Peter Clewes, superstar residential condominium architect in Toronto. The fact that he is discouraged from living in one of his own projects speaks volumes.

The condominium design market is ever-evolving in Toronto, and five years ago the podium + tower design (a.k.a. the “Vancouver Model”) was embraced almost to the point of exclusivity. Planners, developers and architects are still realizing that there is more to the design of a tower than just the form:

“People don’t really look up and take notice of tall buildings,” said Mr. Witt. That’s why he and Mr. Clewes told the panel that it’s usually the first 50 feet of a tower that really matter. Bruce Kuwabara of KPMB Architects, whose recent projects include the TIFF Bell Lightbox, concurred. “It’s not about height, but how you organize tall buildings vertically,” he said.

So the podium is still crucial to the street-level perception of a tower, but it is now about subtle design cues and populating the podium with a good mix of uses:

The solution lies partly architectural designs that complement pre-existing structures, Mr. Clewes added.

If developers are building a tower in a commercial neighbourhood such as Bloor Street east of St. George, he suggested designing a building that fits into the continuous street wall. On the other hand, Charles Street, which is on a more residential zone, requires different treatment with landscaped lawns, he said.

Some interesting discussion points contained within the article. Read it here.

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