When we hear the word “modern,” visions of cold, stark surroundings may come to mind. In the new high-rise condominium world, however, today’s version of modern paints a very different picture. Our developers and builders have come up with wonderful ways to create modern buildings that are also warm and inviting.
They achieve this striking balance in many ways, beginning with the actual building design. Certainly, skyscrapers lining city streets can be imposing, which is why most residential towers today are anchored by a podium or feature street-level townhomes at the base. By creating some sort of setback before the tall building rises, these street-level sections offer more of a low-rise residential feel. They provide an unobtrusive introduction to the condominium, a friendlier, warmer frontage that allows more natural light to come through to the street.
Their choice of materials makes a difference, too. Even sleek glass towers often have brick and/or stone at the podium levels to soften their impact. We are also seeing new condominiums that are being built on historical properties with part of the original buildings preserved and incorporated into the designs. King Blue Condominiums, for example, is situated at King Street West and Peter Street in Toronto’s Entertainment District on the site of the Canadian Westinghouse Building constructed in 1929, which later became the Indian Motorcycle Café and Lounge. One of King Blue’s podiums will incorporate the north and west walls of the original structure. The developers have also incorporated a pedestrian passageway from King West to Mercer Street and a driveway from Blue Jays Way that features a resident pick-up/drop-off area connecting the lobbies – a set-up that is practical and inviting.
Some condominiums feature a glass exterior from bottom to top. In these cases, the glass-enclosed lobby area spurs visual interaction between people inside and passers-by on the street, adding yet another intimate feel to the building. Another interesting way of warming up sleek, chic building designs is the addition of courtyards featuring hard and soft landscaping. In fact, bringing in the beauty of nature is something at which our GTA developers excel.
Today’s condominium communities encompass any number of beautiful elements such as lush parks, gorgeous rooftop gardens amid striking views, and other spaces that encourage interaction with nature and contribute to greening the streetscape. Expert landscape designers know how to choose just the right plant materials to complement the settings and provide as much colour as possible throughout the year. It is not a stretch to say that these courtyard and garden areas are works of art – as are the stunning public art components outside Toronto’s new condominiums.
Contemporary condominiums offer a beautiful breadth of styles that are modern and timeless in appeal, combining hard and soft lines, urban materials and verdant plant life, street-oriented facades and setbacks to rising towers. This timelessness means these homes will look just as good 20 and 30 years from now, which enhances the value of every suite within.
Bravo to our architects and developers who are finding fresh new ways to marry the old with the new and modern sensibilities with warm elements. They manage to put it all together to create a chorus of contemporary statements on Toronto’s skyline. The effect is breathtaking, and we all benefit from their artistry.
Barbara Lawlor is president of Baker Real Estate Incorporated and an in-demand columnist and speaker. A member of the Baker team since 1993, she oversees the marketing and sales of condominium developments in the GTA and overseas.