Award of Excellence: Modern on the Park

Toronto, Ontario

Architects Alliance

This residential condominium is to be situated on the former site of two gas stations, derelict for a decade. The particular challenge this site posed for the architects was to address issues pertaining to industrial brownfields while gracefully accommodating the significant urban green space in nearby High Park and mediating the scale of the building for neighbouring single-family residences.

The building combines access to Bloor Street along with a terraced south faade that responds to the 50% slope from north to south and to the City of Toronto’s angular plane requirement for buildings on major streets. The six-storey north-facing Bloor Street elevation, which has retail at grade, is less permeable to the elements than the south-facing side, which, ranging from six to ten storeys in height, overlooks the park and consists of stepped terraces and extensive glazing protected by a brise-soleil system. Plantings are to be removed from the terraces in winter, allowing the lower sun angle to passively heat most units.

Due to the extreme change in grade on the site, dealing with rainwater and run-off is particularly critical, and a pond in the park receives the run-off from the north part of the site. A system of plantings on the terraces at each level channels water collected from the roof of the building, controlling run-off and providing an energy- efficient amenity for residents.

The building’s straightforward form is underscored by its restrained material palette, which consists primarily of brick and aluminum-framed glazing with precast concrete accents.

Caruso: I appreciate the way that this project places a large commercial building onto a sensitive site in a matter-of-fact way. Rather than try to disguise its size, this project accepts repetition and a simple structural/spatial layout as the valid basis for a design. A sensible section and careful judgement about the scale and position of the primary tectonic elements, like the expressed fin walls and the balcony edge planters, lend this project the simple grace of good commercial buildings from the ’50s. More contemporary commercial buildings should be looking back to this high point in Toronto’s architectural history.

Kapusta: The straightforward sectional elegance of this developer condominium project solves a site that was as difficult from a political–with respect to neighbouring residents–as from a topographical point of view. The building takes the form of a series of terraces parallel to the steeply sloping site in a nicely solved jigsaw strategy that embeds parking in the building’s base, and well-mannered elevations on a site that is as close as Canada gets to New York’s Central Park.

Saia: Rather than the usual panoply of gadgets used to attract the typical condo-buyer, a beautiful gimmick-free faade draws out the urban wall along Bloor Street. Its openings and its retail outlets animate and sustain its rapport with the pedestrian. The volume of the building dictated by the topography is stepped, serving as a mediator between the large buildings in front and the houses below. The integration into the environment is thus particularly successful. The project’s principal advantage remains its view onto the park, the sunny exposure, and the apartment terraces. I have, however, reservations concerning the planning that proliferates the nooks and crannies, breaks up the spaces, and deprives them of some of the advantages promised by the massing. The transparent effects obtained in the model photos will disappear should the building be constructed as presented. We are left with the desire that the plans might rise to the level of the volumetric form.

Modern on the Park, Toronto, Ontario

Architects Alliance

Client: Context Development Inc.

Architect team: Peter Clewes (partner-in-charge), Prishram Jain, Mara Nicolaou (design team); Ralph Bregman (partner-in-charge of construction), Deni Papetti (project architect)

Structural: Read Jones Christoffersen

Mechanical/Electrical: Jain & Associates Ltd.

Landscape: Corban & Goode Landscape Architecture and Urbanism

Geo-Environmental: Shaheen & Peaker Ltd.

Geotechnical: McClymont & Rak Engineers, Inc.

Building code: Larden Muniak Consulting Inc.

Model photographs: Elizabeth Jones, Lenscape Inc.

Budget: $12 million

Completion: June 2004