Being an avid traveller, and with real estate being both my passion and profession, over the years I have noticed just how Vanilla the condo landscape was in Toronto in terms of design. Somehow we had transported the cookie cutter lowrise development theme; you know that giant spiral neighbourhood where every house looks the same? And we supersized it into condo towers scattered throughout Toronto. Whereas travelling through Europe notably Berlin and London I noticed that most high rise developments were so unique, so rich in design often choosing form over function; sacrificing unit volume for uncommon design, also higher material costs for a infinitely nicer end product, turning into unique landmarks for each neighbourhood and the city as a whole.
Typically in London the projects I admired were high rise projects; but when i was in Berlin I admired the fact that from the highest rise to a modest 3 storey corner of the street boutique building the care in design and visual appeal was so apparent; but on a whole throughout my travels I found that everywhere even in major American cities such as New york LA and Chicago, they avoided cookie cutter and valued design. Each time arriving back in Toronto where I live and work I would commence my daily travels and activities with almost universal disappointment with my condo scenery each building and address melding into the next a sea of high rise colored glass and metal, all looking the same.
Then came Absolute World condos, two spiralling wonders by MAD Architects, ironically I came to know these two towers of magnificence driving towards the airport in August 2011, viewing them in the distance and I had to know who designed them and I needed a closer look. They were just as fantastic in person, but it left me frustrated and confused; Ontario’s first magnificently designed condominiums were not in the city of Toronto but in Mississauga. Now why did these developers feel the need to pump money into the original and grand design of these two towers on property that if in Toronto would be worth loads more? I may never know the answer to that, but they sold out and sold out fast, and maybe the spectre of these towers looking down on Toronto prompted developers within this city to step up their game, and step up they did. Enter the “L Tower” a massive tower on the Esplanade, developed by the same heroes who built Absolute World, and designed by one of modern Architectures heavy Hitters Daniel Libeskind, a designer of many Iconic buildings throughout North America and Europe and which also sold out fast. In concept drawings it looked fantastic a true landmark for the city, but once completed though still overall a radical design sort of blends in with the rest due to the use of the same old colored glass and steel, though I commend the attempt for me it still falls flat; but has contributed to the growing trend of putting actual design and innovation into Toronto’s new condo buildings. As the L tower was changing the standard for Toronto’s high rises, Toronto’s low rise buildings have been experiencing a similar renaissance recently Wonder Condos real hard lofts by Graywood, Hard lofts built in and around the old Weston wonder bread bakery, which again sold out in record time, proving the fact that like myself fellow Torontonians have been craving both the unique and well designed!
But these few examples of a thankfully growing trend pale in comparison to in my opinion, Toronto’s most magnificent condo development to date, and also in my opinion the most magnificent for the foreseeable future 533 King Street West otherwise known as King Toronto by Allied, Westbank and Architect Bjarke Ingels and his BIG design company. Bjarke Ingels designer of Google’s new headquarters and 2 World Trade centre in New York city among many others our Generations Frank Lloyd Wright, designing four mountain peaks of perfection on a prime 600 foot stretch of Toronto’s King West assembled and owned by allied properties and developed by Canada’s luxury developer Westbank who brought our city the Shang Gri La hotel. When I first saw the Mock ups of this project I looked up and thanked the heavens that Toronto would now have Its Landmark property, much like New york’s Trump Tower or Chicago’s Marina City. A community within the city, these four mountain peaks festooned with greenery will feature top notch amenities and unique high end retail, and incorporate the beautiful heritage brick bound buildings already occupying the site. They are going to be a true Landmark for our city, a must have address that will inspire awe from tourists and locals alike for years to come, everything else will be just a building.
I can barely contain my joy and excitement when I think of this project and look at the renderings, Though it will be extremely hard to top the design and location of this project. Though it gives me great joy and excitement this development also punctuates the disappointment I have that so much prime Toronto real estate has been so far wasted with such cookie cutter product. But I hope it further pushes and in some cases forces developers even in little known locations in the city to step up their game and sacrifice some dollar signs for better design and better materials, because after all the city cannot grow new property, so please let’s take advantage of it, and create things that will please our senses for many generations to come. Lastly I think King Toronto also shows us that high rise condos are the futures best medium for art and expression for the masses that can be seen and appreciated on a daily basis, for any person travelling throughout Toronto or any city, and the developers of the future should not undertake this responsibility lightly, but instead with great passion and conviction. It is indeed a great time to take advantage of the exciting new design forward condos in Toronto, and own a piece of unique real estate!