Urban development is an ongoing conversation across time and place. In our time, and in King West, our team at BIG engaged with Westbank and Allied on three questions, and our ultimate design was informed by three observations.
The questions first: What kind of a neighbourhood was this before? What has it become now? And where is it going in the future? The observations — and the resulting design — were rooted in the understanding that we gleaned from this inquiry.
The first observation was that King West is a unique space in the Toronto context, characterized by an informal urban network of alleys, back lots and secret gardens. The neighbourhood’s historic and gradual transformation from urban manufacturing into a vibrant creative neighbourhood had generated a stark variation in scale and activity. We wanted to enhance and expand that architectural diversity, imagining a city block that would expand and contract, ascend and descend. We wanted to honour the neighbourhood context by maintaining and creating alleys, short cuts and underpasses gaps and cracks for all kinds of urban life.
Second, new urban development seems to tirelessly repeat the same limited range of typologies. In Toronto of late, the tower-on-a-podium seems to be the one size that fits all. Yet Canada has a rich and previously untapped history of urban innovation. Specifically, Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67 in Montreal exploded the monolithic box to create a porous landscape of houses with gardens.
We asked ourselves if we could imagine an urban-integrated equivalent of Safdie’s Habitat, half a century later. In this revision, the streetwall is broken and rotated. The monolithic volume of the tower-on-podium is chipped away to create an undulating landscape of terraces. The urban silhouette rises towards the sky or dips down to touch the ground. And at every shift, an urban garden is created, allowing residents access to fresh air and greenery. Each terrace has a tree, so you have both an alpine skyline of individual urban ledges and a forest, rooted in a courtyard that connects the street to a lush, green park.
The third observation, and our third response, was to recognize and acknowledge the dominant materiality of the neighbourhood’s red and yellow brick warehouses. We tried a red brick. A yellow brick. A cement brick. And finally, we rediscovered the glass brick. The glass brick can be transparent, translucent and opaque. It can admit light while protecting privacy. It can sparkle and refract in the daylight and glow from within at night. The lightness and luminosity of the glass brick provides the urban mountain range with the glacial lightness of an iceberg.
The result is the new architectural character of KING Toronto - inspired by the past, informed by the present and aspiring towards the future.
Source: King Toronto Condos