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Six towers set to bloom
August 29, 2008 | John Bentley Mays | Globe and Mail

"A work of architecture begins its real-world career (as opposed to its life in the designer's mind and studio) as a hole in the ground. Downtown Toronto nowadays sports many of these muddy pits in the urban fabric. But not all holes are created equal. Here are a few important ones that deserve watching in the weeks and months to come.

590 Jarvis St.

One of Toronto's most fashionable avenues in Victorian times, Jarvis Street suffered badly 100 years ago, when its wealthy residents decamped to nearby Rosedale. Great Gulf Group's X condominium, at the corner of Jarvis and Charles streets, will be a good tonic for its historically dilapidated neighbourhood.

The great modern master Ludwig Mies van der Rohe inspired the design by Peter Clewes and the late Adrian di Castri of the Toronto firm architectsAlliance, and the radical spirit of Mies is invoked in every crisp line and strict angle of the tower.

Jarvis and Adelaide streets

Like X up Jarvis, Aspen Ridge Homes's Vü — its podium is now peeking out of the ground — is a piece of solid city-building. This dense complex of high-ceilinged lofts, townhouses and condominium apartments will be situated on the long-neglected east side of downtown. Or at least the district was neglected through much of the 20th century. Since the turn of this century, condominium blocks have been going up in the neighbourhood at a fast clip, and Vü will add substantially to the momentum of this residential revival.

The design is by David Pontarini, founding partner in the Toronto firm Hariri Pontarini Architects.

183 Wellington St. West

The luxurious Ritz-Carlton hotel and condominium tower is at a stage of construction that delights architecture aficionados: poking up above street level a few storeys, with all its massive concrete bones showing, and no cladding to obscure the craftsmanship of engineers and technicians.

Designed by the U.S. firm Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates and Toronto's Page + Steele Architects, the project will feature an urbane glass podium lifted smartly off the street by concrete columns. Behind this entry pavilion will rise the tower proper, its outer walls tilting outward with attractive flair.

330 King St. West at John

Just a few steps north of the Ritz-Carlton, the Bell Lightbox will be another tall tower in what's becoming a big cluster of them along King. It has been designed by Bruce Kuwabara of the well-known Toronto firm Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects, and it will house the famous Toronto International Film Festival Group and many condominiums up top.

If architects' renderings are anything to go on, the building will be bright and lively, and crowned with a glowing box illuminated from within by light-emitting diodes — "a vertical city of film," Mr. Kuwabara has poetically called it.

1 Bedford Rd.

Out of this hole in the ground will emerge a tower with 32 residential floors that will likely add a touch of suave to the unsightly north side of Bloor Street, west of University Avenue. The scheme, also by Mr. Kuwabara, has had its share of tribulation.

A couple of years ago, you may recall, the muscular local citizens' group attacked H&R Developments and Lanterra Developments, whose project this is, arguing that grannies would be plunged into darkness by the tower, and so forth. The upshot was a decision by the city to shrink the building a little —not enough, thankfully, to blunt the contribution this tower will make to the streetscape.

When this building was being designed, I was bothered a bit by the architect's bowing to the preservationists and incorporating some scraps from the studio of beaux-arts designer John M. Lyle (the Royal Alexandra Theatre, Union Station), which once stood at 1 Bedford. It now appears that these bits and pieces will be integrated elegantly into Mr. Kuwabara's modernist etude.

325 Bay St. at Adelaide

When it's finished, Toronto architect Eberhard Zeidler's 60-storey Trump International Hotel and Tower will make this address in the financial district one of the swankiest in Canada.

The people living there will have access to all of the luxuries of the five-star hotel on the building's lower storeys. Cars will be parked by valets. For those who can't be bothered to own a car, the management will provide round-the-clock use of two chauffeured Mercedes. And there will be lots of room at the top: The penthouses will be a lavish 4,300 to 7,400 square feet in area.

I like the idea of this big dollop of ritz in the heart of the city. Along with many of the other holes in downtown Toronto, the one at 325 Bay will soon be filling up with residential architecture that adds value to being and living here."

- Globe and Mail, August 29, 2008
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