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How Toronto planners ensure mediocrity

Toronto city planners may not know what they like, but to the rest of us the answer is obvious: glass towers.

 

You don’t have to go far in this city to come across the results of the planning department’s love affair with the now ubiquitous see-through highrise. There are dozens of examples of architectural transparency, one barely distinguishable from the other.

 

Indeed, it has reached the point where any new tower that isn’t clad in glass stands out from the crowd, and for Toronto planners, there’s no sin worse than standing out.

 

At the same time, it’s not hard to understand why planners and developers have grown to love the glass boxes — they’re cheap, buyers love them and any number of precedents has been set for the municipal bureaucracy. So they’re safe.

 

Despite concerns about the sustainability of the glass-walled condo and the monotony they have brought to the Toronto skyline, these are not issues that concern city planners. That’s someone else’s department.

 

For planners, the main thing is to ensure that everything fits in — in other words, that nothing stands out. As long as a building isn’t too tall, too dense, or too good, the department is happy to give its approval.

 

And for the most part, it’s a good thing to insist that buildings fit in. Too many soloists in the choir leads to cacophony. But as is always the case, rules were meant to be broken. Some buildings are important enough that they should stand out — City Hall, museums, galleries, concert halls, train stations among them.

 

Many cities also make exceptions for ordinary buildings designed by extraordinary architects. The Turning Torso condo tower in Malmo, Sweden, looms over its neighbours. But it was intended to be a landmark, complete with souvenir shop across the road. Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, it is the tallest building in the country.

 

But in Toronto, a city terrified of change and, therefore, awash in NIMBYism, planners are always nervous. Too frightened to be imaginative, let alone bold, they resort to a sort of checklist approach to approval.

 

As the endless glass towers make clear, the result is a city of sameness and desirable only because it offends the least number of people, is most easily defended and keeps planners from having to justify their actions.

 

Whether the planning department actually believes in the mediocrity it has unleashed on Toronto is beside the point; banality is the inevitable result of its planning-by-default approach.

 

Typically, we blame developers. And god knows, they have much to answer for. But it’s time we take a closer look at their handmaids at City Hall: the planners. They are the real experts.

 

Toronto a ses tours de verre, Montréal a ses petites fenêtres carrées.

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  • 1 month later...
saw the documentary couple days ago. They focused far too much on Toronto. They should've went around all of Canada, not only T.O and a little bit of Vancouver.

 

 

Maybe the point of the documentary was that Toronto's boom in condo building was the story. So maybe the surface glitz of Toronto's skyline is just that; glitz with a lot of glitches thrown in, how about that?

 

I will say to you that when the dust settles on this boom, and we find out the shady deals that makes for a "Dont rock the boat" city, with its headlong thrust into speculative real estate; it wont be pretty. You are seeing the result of corporatist power with little to stop it. I can only enjoy reading more Montreal bashing articles in the Toronto press on the subject of corruption and collusion. It makes us look a lot better. Then I get to enjoy a laugh at the expense of mark_ac when he deems Montreal a den of mediocrity compared to T.O. and Van. So be it.

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I could not care less that they do not talk about Montreal... What I say is, now that the phenomenon is also on going in Mtl to a faster pace...it is time to take action to ensure that the mess/issues that they have in Toronto is not going to happen in Mtl. Bottom line it takes some people with the courage to put in place measures to increase quality of what is being build. Quality includes architecture as well! I hope some Mtl city planners and urbanists are reading these posts... I am pretty happy with the Armini Exchange twin towers = quality at first glance.

 

On another note, this is not an issue only with Toronto...can you think to what is going to happen in China??? OMG a lot of pleasure for years to come...

Edited by Chris Mtl
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I could not care less that they do not talk about Montreal... What I say is, now that the phenomenon is also on going in Mtl to a faster pace...it is time to take action to ensure that the mess/issues that they have in Toronto is not going to happen in Mtl. Bottom line it takes some people with the courage to put in place measures to increase quality of what is being build. Quality includes architecture as well! I hope some Mtl city planners and urbanists are reading these posts... I am pretty happy with the Armini Exchange twin towers = quality at first glance.

 

 

On another note, this is not an issue only with Toronto...can you think to what is going to happen in China??? OMG a lot of pleasure for years to come...

 

 

Most def. Yup.

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En lisant les problèmes de la tempête de verglas de Toronto, on peut se rendre compte que les résidents de Toronto aimeraient bien avoir des fils électriques sous terre. C'est présentement une grosse discussion, et pour l'instant, les fils resteront extérieurs. On peut aussi croire que la tempête de verglas à Toronto se répètera dans le futur. Toronto est aussi à un endroit propice aux tornades en Ontario. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1985_Barrie_tornado_outbreak . Il n'est pas impossible que ça se reproduise.

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