Ninth annual Pug Awards: A Tale of Two Cities

The nominees for the 9th Annual Pug Awards: The People’s Choice for Architecture reveal a kind of “Tale of Two Cities” in Toronto. The city’s 14 newest commercial and institutional buildings, designed by Canada’s most esteemed architects, are inventive, contextual and diverse. There’s everything from a jail to educational buildings to police stations to luxury hotels to community outreach centres. The 29 most recent residential buildings, though shifting gradually to a more urban sensibility, with a number of mid-rises on “the avenues” among this year’s nominees, remain a lost opportunity for Toronto, according to Pug Awards co-founders Anna Simone and Gary Berman.

“Our commercial and institutional buildings evoke emotion. They challenge the status quo. They have distinct vocabularies and unique DNA and they’re memorable,” declares Simone, Principal of Cecconi Simone. “By contrast, most of our residential buildings produce cynicism or, worse, indifference. They’re bland and forgettable, choosing the path of least resistance. We must begin to challenge ourselves, to capture the intimacy of architecture in our residential projects, even while working at a large scale.”

“If the overall quality of new development in Toronto could keep pace with the impressive level of building activity, our city would truly capture the imagination and attention of the world,” states Berman, president of Tricon Capital Group. “Instead, we are left to debate whether the amount of new building is sustainable or speculative rather than marvel in the overnight transformation of one of the world’s leading cities.”

The public is invited to vote on this year’s 43 Pug Awards nominees – 14 commercial/institutional nominees and 29 residential nominees – which began on April 30th, 2013, and which ends on Friday, May 31, 2013.

Winners will be announced at the Pug Awards closing ceremony on June 26 at The Shops of Summerhill, recipient of the 2012 Paul Oberman Award for Excellence in Adaptive Reuse and Heritage Restoration.

To qualify for the Pug Awards, buildings must have been completed in 2012 and be located in the city of Toronto. They also need to have an area greater than 50,000 square feet. Noteworthy buildings that don’t meet these criteria may be considered for nomination by the Pug Awards Advisory Board and Executive Committee.

The founders of the Pug Awards believe that an appreciation for smart, responsible and beautiful design in Toronto should start with the city’s youth. With this in mind, Pug Ed was created in 2007 to engage Toronto senior elementary-school students in an exploration of the city’s physical environment via pre-recorded presentations by leading design and development practitioners, followed by a student design competition. The competition requires students to prepare a complete redevelopment proposal for a specific urban scenario, which are presented to judges verbally, visually and in written form. Winning students receive a certificate and generous monetary award at the Pug Awards closing ceremony. Early interest from Jesse Ketchum Public School and Queen Alexandra Middle School indicates a record 65 participants this year.

Started in 2010, Pug Talks offer a series of free roundtable discussions on architecture, design and planning throughout the year. Participants typically include residents, city councillors and staff, design consultants and developers, providing them with a friendly forum to exchange ideas. The first Pug Talk this year, “The Future of the Glass Tower,” took place on April 30 at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

The annual Pug Awards, now in its 9th year, celebrate the best in Toronto architecture. Created by Anna Simone, Founding Partner and Principal, Cecconi Simone, and Gary Berman, President and Chief Operating Officer, Tricon Capital Group, the Pugs invite the public to vote for Toronto’s best, middling and worst new developments of the year. The goal is to promote design excellence in Toronto through public engagement. The Pug Awards are made possible with the generous support of numerous sponsors and the Pug Awards Advisory Board.

For more information on the awards and on how to vote, please visit