I read with interest Marcus Gee’s recent article from the Globe and Mail, in which he discusses the possibility for the city’s main avenues to be built up using mid-rise, were it not for the obstacles placed in the way of such development by City Hall.
Two Old Mill, Toronto
To add to what architect Roland Rom Colthoff said, “(the city’s) plan says they want to develop the avenues, but they have an old set of rules that presents a big delay in bringing these projects to market,” I have always felt that city planning is like composing a great piece of music. You need highs and lows, rhythms and staccatos. There is nothing wrong with our pursuit of high rises, just as there is nothing wrong with the development of avenues.
To me, it is about context, and since I believe that context matters, the urban designers and planners at the City should establish their guidelines and principles, but not lock the hands of the talented architectural and urban design professionals we have in this city, to not be creative. Steadfast rules don’t always work, and adds to this long decision process. Too many constraints kill design opportunities, and certainly they cannot be applied block by block throughout the city regardless of context.
Corners are different than blocks. Mid-blocks can be lowered or heightened depending on what surrounds them – parks, subways or stable single-family homes. Whether the building is on the north or south side of the street creates totally different sun shadow effects. All of these are the tools for creating good design solutions that help determine the fit of design into any neighbourhood, high-rise or mid-rise.
Two Old Mill, Toronto
At Kirkor, we do have a growing number of mid-rise projects that have been sculpted into this model. The key has been to show our clients that they can many times succeed with the same development density, while achieving mid-rise built form. An example would be our No. 1 and No. 2 Old Mill project for Tridel at Bloor Street West and Old Mill.
Double-sided angular planes, terraces built form, street front main wall, mixed-use retail at grade, enhancement of the pedestrian realm, all become tools for development success of this street-front twelve story building. And yes, the red tape was tremendous, it was over 2 ½ years of meetings and site planning processes, but the result was worth it, it was a great, successful mid-rise project.
The creativity is there with architects, it’s the rules that are not. There are many possible styles of building–many possible solutions–from an architect’s point of view, but the bylaws imposed on form often limits the architect’s ability to be creative.