On Tuesday, Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto signed a deal that pared down some of the business's plans to design a smart city on the Canadian city's lakeshore. Sidewalk Labs, a New York-based urban innovation startup founded by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, was selected last year to work with Waterfront Toronto, a government-backed corporation, to reimagine underdeveloped parcels on the city’s eastern edge. The proposal, Sidewalk Toronto, envisioned 800 acres of waterfront as a test hub for new urban technologies. Since the announcement, details about the project have been slow to emerge, but last week a 58-page agreement between Sidewalk and Waterfront Toronto revealed a narrower scope for the tech company than originally imagine. Rather than having influence over the entirety of the city's waterfront, Sidewalk Labs has been given a more stringent site plan and governance with just 12 acres of land available for its new high-tech neighborhood at Quayside. The site sits south of Toronto’s downtown at Parliament Slip, a long-underutilized port and empty space adjacent to the city’s elevated highway. While many of the design details have been kept under wraps since Sidewalk Labs was chosen for the project last fall, we do know that it aims to combine a new mobility system for transportation, sustainable and flexible buildings, data integration, and digital infrastructure. In the initial description and renderings, Quayside features “futuristic city” tech innovations such as sensors that can detect pedestrians at traffic lights, robot vehicles that can transport garbage via underground tunnels, and a transformative street layout fit for shared self-driving cars. According to the new documents, the city of Toronto doesn’t plan to give over any other waterfront lands except the Quayside parcel to the Sidewalk Labs project, although Waterfront Toronto officials say that expanding later on to neighboring sites is still a possibility. It was also made clear that Sidewalk Labs will have zero equity in the project, though the group initially invested US$50 million on public consultations and pre-design and -development work. That money could be recovered in their share of the profits should the final plans be approved. To move forward, the designs must go through a series of public roundtables this fall and eventually be looked over by the city council. While a new waterfront scheme has been in talks for years, Toronto is now pushing back on Sidewalk Labs’ design largely, it seems, because the grand vision for the project isn’t all that clear. Many critics have noted the original framework for the proposal was thin on details, especially regarding how Sidewalk Labs would collect and use Torontonians’ data and ensure privacy. In the new agreement, a set of protections and promises are listed but there are no specifics on how the partners would enact those are laid out yet. According to The Globe and Mail, one of Waterfront Toronto’s board members, developer Julie Di Lorenzo who was outspoken in her opposition to Sidewalk Labs’ plan, stepped down from her seat recently because she was “uncomfortable with the nature of the agreement.” In early July, the corporation’s CEO Will Fleissig also suddenly resigned from his position. Tuesday’s deal was signed unanimously with neither formerly involved parties present. The explosion of excitement surrounding smart cities has lessened in recent months, in part due to concerns over how data would safely be distributed across a city-wide digital infrastructure. Not only that, but the question remains unanswered as to whether or not technology is ready for built-from-scratch cities to pop up overnight. Early promises like the self-driving car have yet to find their footing. Waterfront Toronto plans to break ground on the project as early as next spring if all approvals go through. Since this is Sidewalk Lab’s first chance to reinvent the smart city, if it doesn’t work out there, they’ll have to find another town to take them on.
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The Bjarke Ingels Group’s (BIG) 2016 summer Serpentine Pavilion, an unzipped exploration of the flat wall, has made an intercontinental leap to Toronto and is set to open in September. During the day visitors will be able to explore an architectural exhibition titled Unzipped, curated by BIG, inside of the “unzipped wall," and at night talks and events will be hosted by developer and owner Westbank. The curvilinear pavilion will be reconstructed to its original size: 88.5 feet long, 39 feet wide, and 49 feet tall. BIG’s design for the structure began with a two-dimensional wall, and then “pulled it apart” from the base to form the vaulted event space. Rather than the traditional brick, BIG stacked extruded fiberglass frames to allow sunlight inside, a material-structure-daylighting confluence also seen in Frida Escobedo’s 2018 Serpentine Pavilion. The soaring interior evokes the awesomeness of sacred interiors, but here, visitors are encouraged to get comfortable and climb on the outside of the installation. The unzipped wall is currently being installed at the intersection of King and Brant Streets, directly in front of BIG and Westbank’s mixed-use King Street West development. The stepped building will resemble the pavilion, as the development also uses cascading, angled units to maximize sunlight exposure. The installation will remain at its current location until November of this year, but Toronto is only the first stop in the pavilion’s multi-city tour across Canada. The structure will ultimately land on the West Coast in front of Westbank’s Shaw Tower on the Vancouver waterfront. Serpentine Pavilions are sold after the summer season ends and leave London's Hyde Park for homes all over the world. Last year’s pavilion, a swooping saucer that loomed over triangularly-patterned walls from Diébédo Francis Kéré, was purchased by Ilham Gallery in Kuala Lumpur and will likely end up in the Malaysian capital city. Smiljan Radic’s fiberglass pebble from 2014 landed on the Hauser & Wirth art campus, located on Durslade Farm in Bruton, England, and SelgasCano’s plastic polygonal color show from 2015 is slated for a second life in Los Angeles. And what about Zaha Hadid’s original tent from the show’s first year in 2000? The multi-gabled pavilion eventually became a public gathering place (and frequent wedding venue) at Flambards Theme Park in Helston, Cornwall.
Several renowned North American firms, including New York-based practices Snøhetta and wHY Architecture, are among the ten finalists competing in an international competition to design two new waterfront parks in Toronto. Commissioned by Waterfront Toronto and the City of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation, the projects will, when complete, add to the city's growing collection of green spaces along its harbor. Over 40 teams submitted design proposals for the York Street and Rees Street Parks, both located at the heart of the city's waterfront. The design brief for York Street Park, a two-acre piece of land situated between the southern part of Toronto's Financial District and the York Quay residential neighborhood, called for amenities like event and green space, a water feature, public art, an architectural pavilion, and accommodation for dogs. Five finalists were chosen. In 'Park Vert', Agency Landscape + Planning partnered with DAVID RUBIN Land Collective to create a green oasis for locals inspired by Toronto’s urban forest. The design is multi-layered and includes a canopy to provide summer shade, a light walkway to create an elevated experience while walking through the park, and a 'forest floor' that incorporates a water fountain and different natural materials. Stephen Stimson Associates Landscape Architects and MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects collaborated on 'York Forest', which features a massive canopy of vegetation housing a variety of human activities and natural systems. In the renderings, people, plants, and animals co-exist in an urban ecosystem. Located a few minutes east of the site for York Street Park, Rees Street Park is a 2.3-acre area set between Rogers Centre and Queens Quay West. Its brief asked entrants to design areas of play for all ages and abilities, as well as spaces for a market and other urban activities. In Stoss Landscape Urbanism and DTAH’s proposal titled 'Rees Landing', the park becomes a “testing ground for new forms of civic and ecological expression.” The architects make use of topographic moves to create an array of contrasting textures, playing with people’s experiences in the site. In 'The NEST', Snøhetta partnered with PMA Landscape Architects to create an 'experimental stage' at Rees Street Park that can be used year-round. Amenities include the Wall Crawl, the Alvar Mist, the Hammock Grove, the Backyard BBQ, and the Play Nest. The design also features retractable elements such as a glass wall that provides a seamless indoor-outdoor transition. Besides these innovative designs, the competition's public engagement process is noteworthy. A jury consisting of industry leaders will take into account feedback from local residents when determining the two winning design teams. You can view the proposals and survey the designs here. Construction of York Street Park is expected to start in 2019, while work on Rees Street Park will commence in 2020.
It’s time to go north of the border as The Architect’s Newspaper checks out some of the highest-profile projects that have been announced across Canada this year. A strong economy has driven construction across the country, and Toronto, in particular, has an abundance of notable buildings breaking ground. From subdued civic structures to prismatic rental towers, 2018 has brought a surfeit of high-profile projects to America’s northern neighbor. One Delisle Studio Gang Toronto, Ontario Studio Gang could end up making a major mark on Toronto’s skyline with its first Canadian project, a 48-story multifaceted tower. The rental building has been designed with 16 sides made up of overlapping eight-story hexagonal modules, and each segment will contain enclosed balconies and be topped with garden terraces for residents. The overlap of the modules resembles scales or the natural spiraling of growing plants, and the effect creates a different view of the tower depending on the angle of approach. An existing 1929 Art Deco facade will be moved over to the base of a neighboring tower, and the base of One Delisle will relate to the historic facade to maintain a cogent street wall. Toronto Courthouse Renzo Piano Building Workshop and NORR Architects & Engineers Toronto, Ontario Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW)’s first project in Canada will consolidate many of Toronto’s smaller courts into a centrally-located municipal building next to the city’s Superior Court of Justice. The building is reminiscent of Piano’s work on the Jerome L. Greene Science Center for Columbia University, both in its boxy massing and in its open ground level, created by raising the base of the building several stories. Despite the courthouse’s wide-open atrium space, the building has been designed with security in mind, and cameras, baggage checkpoints, and internal security corridors will be deployed throughout. The first museum in Ontario to focus on the history of the indigenous justice system will also be located inside. Construction is on track to finish in 2022. The HUB/30 Bay Street Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP) Toronto, Ontario The recently-revealed design for The HUB, a 1.4 million-square-foot tower proposed for Toronto’s South Core neighborhood, is the result of an international design competition for a building that would have a major impact on Toronto’s skyline. The HUB will float over the adjacent Toronto Harbour Commission Building courtesy of a cantilevering base, and create what Senior Partner Graham Stirk describes as 'a harmony' between the two buildings. The use of external structural steel lends the tower a more industrial feeling, and RSHP is promising that the tower will contain column-free office space and a multi-story atrium as a result. Toronto’s Spadina Line expansion stations The Spadina Group Associates and All Design Toronto, Ontario Construction in Toronto is not limited to new towers. Humbler additions to public infrastructure have also been taking shape. Toronto’s largest subway extension in decades opened late last year with six new stations, including two colorful facilities from the late Will Alsop’s All Design. The boxy, zebra-striped second story of the Finch West Station cantilevers over the building's main entrance and is capped with an enormous red window at one end. A concrete 'skirt' floats around the station’s base and offers shelter to riders who are waiting for a bus outside. Inside, Alsop uses touches of color to lighten up the polished concrete interiors. For Pioneer Village, Alsop wrapped the cantilevering station in Corten steel. This station is much rounder than Finch West and uses a red band around the base of the building’s front to direct riders to the main entrance. A geometric canopy rises from the station’s back and creates a covered waiting area for the two regional bus lines that service the station. The same polished concrete seen at Finch West was used inside. Barclay Village Büro Ole Scheeren Vancouver, British Columbia Vancouver has also seen significant growth recently, including the Shigeru Ban-designed hybrid timber tower. Ole Scheeren’s recently-revealed twin towers sit in Vancouver’s West End neighborhood, and according to Scheeren, they use balconies, setbacks, and offsets to create a more welcoming face in contrast to the typical monolithic glass tower typology. All of the terraces are planted, and a rooftop plaza sits on top of the base that links the two towers. Scheeren claims that the driving concept for Barclay Village was to elevate the concept of the village skyward to match Vancouver’s overall verticality. The Winnipeg Art Gallery’s Inuit Art Centre (IAC) Michael Maltzan Architecture Winnipeg, Manitoba This curvilinear four-story museum from Michael Maltzan broke ground in Winnipeg last month, and when complete in 2020, the building will become the largest Inuit art gallery in the world. A double-height glazed atrium at the museum’s base will be anchored by a central 'vault' protected by curved glass, and visitors can freely examine Inuit artifacts as they walk around the ground level. An 8,500-square-foot gallery on the third floor will display Inuit art. The sculptural facade of the building’s stone portion was reportedly inspired by the “immense, geographical features that form the background of many Inuit towns and inlets.” The IAC is an extension of the neighboring Winnipeg Art Gallery, and every floor with connect with the original building.
A 44-story tower has been proposed to top one of Toronto’s most beloved pieces of 20th-century architecture—and many Torontonians aren’t happy. The former Bank of Canada building, built in 1958 and designed by Marani & Morris, currently stands at just eight stories and occupies a choice spot of downtown real estate at 250 University Avenue. The existing structure is designated a heritage building and heritage specialists GBCA Architects have been brought in to consult on the work related to original building. The new combined structure, designed by IBI Group, would reach just over 575 feet and bring the total floor count to 54. It would house 495 condominium units while the original building would continue to host retail and office space. The existing subterranean safe, which currently serves as a common area, and mechanical rooms would be converted into two stories of bicycle storage, while two additional underground levels would be added to provide space for a parking garage. The addition is certainly stirring up controversy. There are numerous dissenting comments on its announcement on Urban Toronto, a news site for new developments in the city. On Twitter, Alex Bozikovic, architecture critic for The Globe and Mail, responded to the announcement unequivocally: “No. Absolutely not.” Bozikovic went on to call the proposed addition a “junkpile.” Many commenters followed suit deriding the proposal as a “total failure” and “the second worst [tower addition] I’ve seen.” One commentator put it more generously, saying “the plan lacks imagination.”
https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js The limestone-colored accents of the addition are ostensibly designed to use color related to the original building, which features modernist sculptures on the facade, though, as another Twitter user pointed out, “They couldn’t even line the damn thing up.” Developer Northam Realty Advisors, who is seeking rezoning in order to construct the addition, is no stranger to controversy. In 2016, the group proposed replacing a historically designated building in the Historic Yonge Street Heritage Conservation District with a pair of towers. (The plan was later revised to be just one, taller tower, also designed by IBI Group.) While received well by some, many were not so positive, and the plan has not yet been approved. As far as the proposed addition to the Bank of Canada building, perhaps Twitter user John Howe put it best: “We can only pray it’ll look better in real life.”
No. Absolutely not. The former Bank of Canada has long been recognized as one of Toronto's best buildings. It deserves to be left alone, not rebuilt with this junkpile of a tower on top. https://t.co/ZTOrSxfRki pic.twitter.com/sZQVhVspI7— Alex Bozikovic (@alexbozikovic) May 9, 2018
The University of Toronto is teaming up with Vancouver-based practice Patkau Architects and Toronto’s MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects (MJMA) to build a 14-story timber and concrete tower, the tallest in North America. Cross-laminated timber (CLT) is taking on the role of structural core and envelope, with the only concrete portion being the existing foundation. According to Shane O'Neill of Patkau Architects, the new tower will “utilize conventional glulam timber floor slabs, in addition to glulam timber columns, beams, and cross-bracing members.” The entire CLT structure is wrapped in multi-angled glazed glass, with a series of skylights and tilted planes providing natural light to atriums and stairwells below. The tower will be built atop the University of Toronto’s Goldring Center, which was designed by Patkau Architects and MJMA in 2014 to support the mass of a significant structure atop it. According to the University of Toronto News, the tower was originally going to be built of steel and concrete. However, wood building incentives provided by Ontario’s Mass Timber Institute and the environmentally friendly qualities of timber construction convinced the school and the designers to opt for the natural material. The structure joins the growing list of timber towers and academic buildings cropping up globally, ranging from London’s 121-unit Dalston Lane to the University of Idaho’s under-construction basketball arena. Currently, Patkau Architects and MJMA are wrapping up the design phase, with the goal of beginning construction in late 2019.
After years of deliberation, Montreal’s regional light rail has been given the go-ahead to begin engineering and construction. Reseau Express Metropolitain (REM) is a fully automated, $5.3 billion light rail project consisting of 26 stations spread out over an approximately 40-mile electrified network. Upon completion, the REM will be the fourth largest automated light rail line in the world after Singapore, Dubai, and Vancouver. NouvLR General Partnership, which includes multinational engineering firms SNC-Lavalin and AECOM, is leading the construction and future operations of the network. The architecture and design of the future stations result from a collaboration between award-winning firms, Perkins+Will, Lemay, and Bisson Fortin. As reported by the Global Construction Review, the new light rail network will establish a comprehensive rapid transport link between downtown Montreal, the international Aeroport-Montreal Trudeau, and the suburban areas of South Shore, West Island, and North Shore. The four branches of the REM will consist of surface-level, underground and overhead routes, serviced by an initial fleet of 240 cars. The 26 stations will have 260-foot platforms, universal access facilities, and a number of intermodal connections to the city’s bus and commuter rail networks. Although REM will be a network independent of the Montreal Metro, the city’s existing public transit system, the two bodies will share four stations within the city’s center. With Greater Montreal boasting a population of over four million, the seamless integration of regional rail with local rapid transit has the capacity to dramatically boost economic growth within the city. The CDPQ estimates that REM could attract $4 billion in private real-estate investment and reduce congestion-related costs by $1.5 billion. Construction is slated to begin in April 2018, with an expected completion date of 2021. However, there are significant hurdles to overcome before construction begins, such as making the necessary land purchases. According to Business Insider, CDPQ will consult local communities and host urban planning competitions to insure that initiatives surrounding the new stations integrate into their neighborhoods and support local residents. Funding for the project derives from a mix of government entities and state corporations. CDPQ Infra will provide $2.35 billion as well as cover any cost overruns, the Governments of Quebec and Canada will provide $1 billion each, the public utility corporation Hydro Quebec will contribute $230 million, and the Montreal Transit Corporation will chip in $405 million. The REM is not the only ambitious infrastructure project undertaken in Canada recently. On December 17, Toronto opened the largest expansion of its subway system in decades. Although Toronto’s 5.3-mile extension of its subway network falls under the purview of the municipal Toronto Transit Commission, it similarly ties the urban core to the suburban periphery.
Canadian winter design devotees have selected four winning designs to spiff up Toronto's east end beaches this February. The fourth annual Winter Stations International Design Competition asked entrants to consider the succinct theme, RIOT, when dreaming up installations that sit around the beaches' not-used-much-in-winter lifeguard stations. Some of the winners took the theme literally, and the others reflected more abstractly on the global political chaos, struggle, and strife that defined 2017. The United States' Martin Miller and Mo Zheng's sheltering Pussy Hat nods to the knit hats women (and some men) donned in protest after President Donald Trump's election, while Alexandra Grieß and Jorel Heid of Germany brought an, um, alarming new take on Italian Futurist Luigi Russolo’s intonarumori to the waterfront with their installation, Make Some Noise!!! In Wind Station, Paul van den Berg and Joyce de Grauw of the Netherlands advocate for nuclear phase-out using hundreds of pinwheels—wind energy—assembled in the shape of a nuclear cooling tower. Kien Pham's Obstacle strikes a more optimistic note. The U.K. designer installed red barriers around a climbing piece that can be accessed only when visitors work in teams to rotate the barriers. “It was important for us to allow the competition to evolve and reflect the global events of the past twelve months,” said Winter Stations co-founder Roland Rom Colthoff of RAW Design, in prepared remarks. "At the same time, the installations couldn't stray too far from the main motive of Winter Stations, which is to bring joy, warmth and conversation to the long, cold Canadian winter landscape." Three student installations will join the four professional designs. Students will erect their own projects, while the build team from Anex Works will construct the pros' pieces. Competition founders RAW Design, Ferris + Associates, and Curio conceived the event as a way to get Torontonians to the beach in the chilliest months. The seven structures will be erected at Kew, Scarborough and Balmy beaches. Opening day is February 19, and the installations will be on view until April 1. Can't make it to Toronto? Feat not—renderings of the winning designs are reprinted here. (All text is via the Winter Stations International Design Competition project descriptions.) "Inspired by the Women's March movement, this vivid installation recreates the powerful, knitted symbol that captured the spirit of the protests around the world on January 21, 2017. The design is simple, yet powerful, a symbol that gains strength through participation and unity. As winter approaches it is a reminder to wear your hat, stand up for what’s right, and stay warm." "Italian Futurism comes to Toronto with this over-sized noisebox, based on Luigi Rusollo’s 'intonarumori' which caused an uproar in the classical music scene when he introduced it in the Milan Opera House in 1914. The installation is intended as a playful instrument to 'ring the alarm.'" "Wind Station is a call for nuclear phase-out that brings together hundreds of tiny pin-wheels, to symbolize renewable wind energy, in the shape of a nuclear cooling tower. A playful protest that asks why countries continue to rely on dangerous and un-sustainable technology to provide energy when safer, cleaner alternatives are available." "Obstacle is a metaphor for overcoming the problems in the world. Although at first, it seems like an impenetrable barrier, the columns rotate allowing visitors to enter and interact with the obstacle, and other visitors. In order to confront the obstacle, visitors have to work together, rotating the columns in sequence to overcome the adversity." "Inspired by the topography of Toronto's Don Valley, Rising Up invites visitors to experience nature's uprising against increasing urbanisation. The elevating tension between humans and the environment is articulated through deconstructed topographical layers and increasing negative space within the sculpture which exposes visitors to the elements." The project team includes Alexander Good, Austin Huang, Kevin Sadlemyer, Marc Cote, Stephan Stelliga, Zixiang Chen, BLA students, University of Guelph, School of Environmental Design and Rural Development and Nadia Amoroso, PhD, ASLA, Faculty Representative, University of Guelph, School of Environmental Design and Rural Development. "NEST is an installation that embodies ideas of comfort within a system of disorder and complexity. The structure is composed of modular cells that contain a weave of colourful webs, providing both shelter and playful moments of light and shadow within the space." The project team is Adrian Chiu, Arnel Espanol, and Henry Mai. "Revolution is composed of 36 vertical modules of different height, enabling visitors to express their opinions through the air. As one projects their voice into the horn, they also amplify the conviction of their words. As the wind blows through the installation, it carries these sounds and ideas into the atmosphere to form a collective message." The project team includes Ben Chang, Anna Pogossyan, Amr Alzahabi, Carlos Chin, Iris Ho, Tracee Jia, Krystal Lum, Adria Maynard, Purvangi Patel, and Judiette Vu.
Toronto opened the largest expansion of its subway system in decades on December 17th, after years of construction and delays. The massive infrastructure project serves as a link between the city's northern suburbs and its urban core, with the new six-stop extension of Toronto's Line 1 passing through Toronto's municipal boundary into the York region, the area adjoining Toronto's northern border. The 5.3-mile extension of the Spadina Line adds six unique stations, bringing the system total to 75. Each station is designed as a standalone piece and features contextual artwork that reflects the surrounding neighborhood. By matching architects with artists early on in the visioning process, Toronto officials hoped that the station's site-specific designs would give residents a sense of ownership and connection to the new spaces. Will Alsop’s aLL Design, Foster + Partners, and Grimshaw Architects were among the firms selected to design the stations. The Spadina Line extension is intended to spur high-density development in Toronto’s northern suburban periphery. The City of Vaughan, at the terminus of the Spadina line, is taking the lead in this redevelopment by transforming the area around the station into a mixed-use district with Diamond Schmitt Architects and developer SmartCentres. The Toronto Star reports the forthcoming 100-acre Vaughan Metropolitan Centre will feature Diamond Schmitt's 55-story Transit City and the 14-story KPMG tower. In total, the City of Vaughn estimates that the development will one day be home to 25,000 residents, and support 11,000 jobs. According to CBC News, the $3.2 billion project should add an additional 36 million annual train trips, while reducing the number of car trips by 30 million, and reduce congestion across the city. The subway's costs will be split evenly between the City of Toronto, the York Region, and the Province of Toronto. Overseeing the Spadina Line strategy is the outgoing chief executive officer of the Toronto Transit Commission, Andy Byford, who will assume control of the New York City Transit Authority, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority body responsible for handling New York's subways, before the new year.
Danish firm 3XN have unveiled plans for a 43-story residential high-rise in Toronto's Church and Wellesley district. Following multiple roundtable discussions with the surrounding community, the office has proposed a design that tries to address many of the problems with towers: it reaches out to the street, breaks up its mass into distinct "villages," and encourages outdoor activity. "It was clear to us that we had to design something that could animate the corner," said 3XN Creative Director Kim Herforth Nielsen. The tower's partially-glazed podium, facing the intersection of Church and Wellesley Streets, is split into two levels, forming an open, balconied plaza with a grand stair meant to encourage community gatherings. Above this, the building, clad in a combination of recessed glass and flush golden-hued metal panels, is divided into four separate masses, with setbacks above the 8th, 13th and 19th floors creating transition zones that divide the building visually and programmatically. Amenity spaces, connected with wraparound terraces, will include a lounge, theater room, saunas, fitness and yoga areas. Construction is set to begin next year and the estimated completion year is 2021. 3XN is also designing a condominium in Toronto's Inner Harbor, with a stepped profile to create a series of outdoor terraces.
What happens when urban planning decisions fall into the hands of tech companies? This is a question that has been asked with increasing frequency as driverless cars, data-driven urban interventions, and "smart cities" have insinuated themselves into the daily news cycle. This week, it was reported that Sidewalk Labs, an urban innovation startup under Google's parent company Alphabet, has emerged as the top contender to tackle a major new urban development project in Canada. Waterfront Toronto, a government-funded corporation operating in of Canada's most populous city, has selected Sidewalks Labs for Quayside, a project which aims to rework 12 acres along Old Toronto's inner harbor into mixed-use space including residential development, of which 20 percent must be affordable. Quayside is part of Toronto Waterfront's mission to adapt nearly 1,977 acres around the city's port to modern use. Waterfront Toronto has been upfront about their tech-focused approach to the redevelopment project. In the competition's RFP, they announced the project was to be "a test bed for how we construct the future city" focused on "forward-thinking urban design and new technologies to create people-first neighborhoods." Sidewalk Labs seems to match these requirements, with projects like the Link NYC wi-fi kiosks now dotting the streets of New York's five boroughs, which is managed by a new Sidewalk-managed company called Intersection. Much like their (and Google's) parent company Alphabet Inc., one of Sidewalk's approaches has been to function as a kind of business incubator for organizations dealing with topic-specific urban interventions. Among their other projects, Cityblock Health addresses urban space as a determinant for public health and Semaphore Lab prototypes adaptive traffic lights. Sidewalk's slogan, "We're reimagining cities from the internet up," may provoke unease among urban planners or socially-minded architects – language is telling, and this catchphrase is notably people-less. Even when addressing issues like affordable housing, urban congestion, and health, solutions based on predictive algorithms rather than human experience can engender healthy skepticism. Waterfront Toronto, now in a self-imposed "blackout period" as they finalize the process, expects to make a formal announcement sometime this fall. The board has a scheduled meeting on October 20th to decide on the staff recommendation.
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Situated about 20 miles outside of downtown Toronto, the Albion Library has historically been one of the city’s busiest libraries. In need of repairs, the facility was initially slated to be closed and renovated. After a series of consultations and community meetings, the project—led by Perkins + Will Canada—was rethought as a ground-up project. The outcome is a new 35,000-square-foot square-shaped building punctuated by courtyard gardens and interior pavilions. The perimeter is defined by a screen of polychrome terra cotta tiles in bright, unexpected colors, helping to contrast the monotone concrete context that surrounds the site. Andrew Frontini, design director of Perkins+Will Canada, said the project team conceptualized the library as an urban oasis. “We wanted to create a colorful perimeter fence that lifts up to let people in. This screen speaks to both the richness of the community and offerings within the library. The idea of using color and very fine texture as something that materializes and dematerializes led us to use terra cotta." The architects said one of the challenges of the project was resolving two distinctly different facade systems to produce a cohesive wall wrapper that clads walls and screens outdoor spaces as it wraps the square volume of the building. “The challenge was to get everything to align, and to achieve a consistency of detailed expressions when in fact we were dealing with two very different systems." The primary wall assembly is a terra cotta rain screen composed of vertically-oriented hollow-cell tongue-and-groove planks around 3/4-inch thick. These planks are finished in an unglazed beige gray coloration, which acts as a background "field" for more colorfully glazed terra cotta baguettes that are mechanically fastened into a rhythmic patterning on the facade. The terra cotta cladding is mounted on stainless steel clips that provide attachment to a Z-girt system. About one inch beyond the terra cotta cladding sits a conventional rain screen assembly composed of rigid insulation, a vapor barrier, and sheathing over structural steel studs. At the courtyards, a second facade assembly picks up the terra cotta. Upper and lower flashing from the rain screen continues to this screen system, providing visual continuity between the two systems. This screen is composed of two-inch terra cotta baguettes set about two inches apart. The terra cotta is attached back to a steel HSS frame, set precisely to maintain a coplanar finish of terra cotta around the perimeter of the building. The framing allowed for terra cotta to be clad on both the exterior and interior side, which allowed for a more finished look to the courtyards for people using the library. Frontini said the project team very purposefully selected colors for the terra cotta. "We were looking at an array of colors that would be evocative of a floral garden. We wanted something that wasn't immediately apparent in the existing landscape—colors that were distinct from the urban setting, and vibrant so that in the winter the colors would help to animate the interior." Within the framed rain screen assembly, a series of punched windows are camouflaged as continuous vertical ribbons of glass by employing spandrel panels above and below the window opening. Below the terra cotta cladding assembly, which forms a sloped datum as it shifts upward to produce corner entries, a curtain wall system is utilized. This creates a nearly continuous band of transparent glazing around the perimeter of the library. Larger expanses of curtain wall are also employed to the interior side of the courtyards, helping to produce a more transparent separation between library and garden. Low-level radiant heating set into a recessed trench system is located at the curtain wall, helping to produce a draft stop and provide heating to patrons situated at furniture along the perimeter. Above, the library roofscape helps to manage stormwater through a green roof system that partially covers the roof, and through sloped areas which direct water into the landscaped courtyards below. "I find that the courtyards are quite magical,” said Frontini. “These pockets of greenery and color bring light deep into the building. Because of these spaces, it's very hard to be far from a window even though you are sitting in a 35,000-square-foot square."