March 16, 2016
by Canadian Architect
Acclaimed Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, principal of Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), has revealed his vision for a landmark block of Toronto’s King Street West. The announcement was made to a capacity audience, from the worlds of architecture and design, arts and entertainment, government and academia, assembled at Koerner Hall in Toronto. Ingels shared his views on how architecture can create communities while paying homage to Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie and Habitat 67, the groundbreaking model community Safdie designed fifty years ago in Montreal.
“With King Street West, we wanted to find an alternative to the tower and podium you see a lot of in Toronto and revisit some of Safdie’s revolutionary ideas, but rather than a utopian experiment on an island, have it nested into the heart of the city,” said Bjarke Ingels. “It would be strange if one of the most diverse cities in the world had the most homogenous architecture.”
The design includes a series of stacked dwellings rising in hill-like groupings over and around a string of heritage warehouses on King Street West. Public underpasses from both King and Wellington streets give access to a central landscaped courtyard.
During the second half of the evening’s program, Ingels was joined on stage by a panel of prominent Toronto-based thinkers to discuss the power of city building as a means to achieve better outcomes for cities. Audience members were invited to pose questions to Ingels and the panel. Ian Gillespie, principal of Westbank Corp, led the event.
“One of the questions we always look to answer in our design process is ‘how can this project contribute to the community or to the city and what are the opportunities to make a positive impact?’” said Ian Gillespie, principal of Westbank. “As city builders, we’re looking to produce better outcomes for cities and in this case the best possible contribution to the King and Spadina community,” he added.
In August, 2015, Allied Properties REIT and Westbank Corp announced a joint-venture arrangement to redevelop 489-539 King Street West in Toronto. Allied will transfer to Westbank an undivided 50% interest in the property with a view to pursuing a mixed-use project comprised of office, retail and residential uses, with the residential component being sold as a condominium.