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Frank Gehry Refines His King Street Design

Images of Gehry's updated designs show a much clearer vision for King Street.


In October, when Frank Gehry first unveiled the three-tower condo complex he and local developer/theatre-impresario David Mirvish are trying to bring to King Street West, the models and renderings of the structure were all preliminary, and it was hard to get a sense of what the architect—who is renowned around the world for his daring, curvilinear designs—had in mind. Some new images, released this week, still aren’t final, but they convey a much clearer idea of where this project is headed. One of them is above.

If we had to sum it up in a word, the word would be, um, “melty”? These buildings look like they spent some time in the car on a sunny day with the windows rolled up, but they definitely would make a nice contrast with the boring, balcony-riddled condo architecture we’ve grown accustomed to in other parts of downtown. There’s no denying they’re interesting.

The idea here is to replace an entire block of buildings between John Street and a little east of Ed Mirvish Way with these three towers, which, if built as planned, would be 82, 84, and 86 stories in height. Combined, they’d have a little over 2,700 residential units. A six-storey podium would house some amenities. (As of last year, the plan the was to put an OCAD facility and an art museum in there.)

Mirvish hasn’t yet secured City approval for the project for a few reasons, one of them being the fact that buildings are all much taller than is permitted under the zoning bylaw. This in itself isn’t necessarily a problem. City council routinely amends the zoning bylaw for developers who are willing to play ball during negotiations.

Another concern is the fact that the project would replace a number of established mid-rise buildings, among them the Mirvish-owned Princess of Wales theatre and four designated heritage structures, which are protected against demolition by law.


The heritage buildings in question are this one, this one, this one, and this one. Fair trade, would you say?

Peter Kofman, president of Projectcore Inc., the management company that represents Mirvish’s interests in this and other developments, says the new design attempts to respond to concerns about preserving heritage structures. “When you look at [the images],” he tells us, “you’ll see that at the base of the building, what we’ve done essentially is take some of the key attributes of those buildings.” By “key attributes,” he means the heavy, wooden criss-crossed bits at the base of the podium. (A close-up image is above.) Those, he said, are supposed to remind pedestrians of the heavy timbers from which the older buildings were constructed.

Regardless, it’s going to be a while before we have an outcome. In a February report, City staff wrote that they hope to have final recommendations on the project by early 2014.

Images courtesy of Projectcore Inc.


  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    At least there’s some cohesion between the three buildings now.

  • vampchick21

    I just can’t make up my mind about this one at all. It’s interesting to say the least, and given that Roy Thompson Hall is basically across the street, along with the park next to it, it might work, or it might need some more tweaking. I’m not quite buying the wooden beams and I’m uncertain about those melty glass leaves. They might want to tweak it a little again.

    • vampchick21

      Messy. That’s what’s bugging me. It looks too messy at the bottom with the melty glass and wooden beams.

      • tyrannosaurus_rek

        The previous rendering was described as “wind-blown litter”, so you aren’t alone in thinking it’s messy.

        • Dana Salama

          It has the potential of looking ethereal, like the buildings are emerging from a cloud. I guess it all really depends on the execution.

          • vampchick21

            Agreed. It has great potential and this is just an early rendering. I’d still clean up the bottom though….

  • Brian

    Looking good. It’s a great location for tall towers and it’s refreshing to see some less conventional architecture. Whether you like them or not, at least there’s enough substance there to form an opinion about.

    • Brock

      True enough.

  • Brock

    It looks like a toy that Cujo chewed up and spit out.

  • SmarterThanYou86

    Oh good, another 2,700+ residents trying to cram onto the already at capacity 504 King streetcar…

    • Brock

      Maybe that backwards thinking council should have backed the subway plan.

      • McRib

        The one to Scarborough? That would have been a big help.

        • Testu

          He’s clearly referring to the full DRL, the proposed route was under King St.

          I mean, it was part of a subway plan, just not the one that the mayor proposed.

    • Wrenkin

      To where? The office buildings several blocks away? Why wouldn’t they walk? You could cross the street to Metro Hall and actually walk underground via the PATH.

      • Paula

        Not everyone works downtown, dude.

    • OgtheDim

      Get rid of all the cabs taking up lanes on King Street and the King car runs a lot more smoothly.

  • c_keane

    Aesthetically, I like them. As the article states, they’d provide a nice counter to the dozens of glass rectangles and cylinders that are currently built south of Queen. As to the question of density problems, population increase is inevitable. I think it’s preferable to have residents work, live and play in the downtown core rather than clog the roads commuting from Oakville, Newmarket and Ajax each day.

    I do wonder about some of the more mundane challenges of this architecture, though. How would simple things like window cleaning work? What about snow and ice buildup in the winters? I assume that Gehry and associates have considered all the angles (no pun intended), but there are a million things to consider when transitioning from a tabletop mockup to the actual, 900-foot tall structures.

    • Moaz Ahmadmoa

      Considering that there were issues with ice and window cleaning with Daniel Liebskind’s Crystal and Frank Gehry’s remake of the AGO … there would probably be similar challenges with these buildings.

      It’s ok though. Staff learn and so do residents. I don’t walk under The Crystal if I see icicles forming in the underside … but that’s about it.

    • John Duncan

      You’d hope that they’ve thought about all the practicalities, but a quick googling of “Gehry buildings that leak” might suggest otherwise.

  • rickm81

    I love them. I just hope they’re not forced to make them shorter. At the proposed height they could be landmark buildings for the city.

  • Sore Eyes

    Engineers these days really can build just about any doodle you throw at them.

  • Moaz Ahmadmoa

    All I can think of is food. The one on the right looks remarkably like a Flake chocolate bar, the middle one a squid tentacle after being cooked on Korean BBQ,and the one on the left is reminding me of string candy.

    Oh, it’s past dinnertime. No wonder. …

  • Norton

    Its amazing, it will be great to see something new and daring. its what we need.

    • sylvester

      It’s not new and daring, it’s just trendy and will be out of style in 5 years. Architecture is not art…creating these strange shapes is a bad idea, considering that the AGO and the OCAD building have so many structural problems.

      The Princess of Wales Theatre actually does have something to do with art- aside from being a theatre, the interior is covered with wonderful murals. That is something no developer does these days, interior murals. It would be a loss of a particularly spectacular representational form of architecture and design of its like the city will never see again. It would be a shame if Toronto keeps destroying its pillars of culture and beauty in order to try out the latest craze. If those towers must be built they can be put somewhere else where there is nothing of importance.

  • DammitJanet

    Am I the only one who thinks they’re awful? Or is willing to say so out loud?

    I always think of ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ when I see Gehry buildings – like a cartoon.

  • OgtheDim

    When they start talking about including significant numbers of 2 and 3 bedroom units, then I’ll think this is a good idea.

    Until then, I don’t get why its needed. Architecture must have a purpose that helps the neighbourhood. And 2400 more single and couple with a dog type housing units isn’t what is needed.

  • sam

    does anyone else feel like the original mockup with the crumpled paper was totally a last-minute thrown together thing, and then some other architects at the firm were tasked with coming up with something proper, but couldn’t diverge too much from crumpled paper look or else it might give away that the original design was born of desperation and not intention?

    in that original design, they had time to generate a nice little replica of the area – no reason why they couldn’t have used a better material than regular white paper to demonstrate the actual architecture, unless something went awry. I feel like they turned to each other said, okay, we’re screwed, but it’s frank gehry. his work is organic. so maybe we’ll get away with strewn paper.

    that said, I don’t actually have anything against giant buildings built based on someone’s act of creative desperation. what we’ve learned from the AGO and ROM is that practically any non-building-shaped form blown up to building size is going to look interesting.

    • dsmithhfx

      “what we’ve learned from the AGO and ROM is that practically any
      non-building-shaped form blown up to building size is going to look

      The AGO looks better from the inside. The ROM looks like the aftermath of a cyclone in a trailer park — inside and out.

    • Paula

      Yeah, I’ve seen that episode of the Simpsons…


  • Sylvester

    The Princess of Wales Theatre is such a great symbol of Ed Mirvish’s vision for the city…It is also one of the few examples of this kind of architecture left in Toronto. I don’t understand how David could destroy his father’s legacy as well as an important part of Toronto’s culture.

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    I’m curious to see how much of that white plastic ends up being clear glass, and if it gives the same impression.

  • qatzelok

    What’s potentially aesthetic about these mock-ups is that they look like some kind of natural phenomenon, like say an ice accumulation on a budding plant.

    The problem is that this type of built-form megalomania destroys actual real nature on many levels, and this makes any reference to nature really empty.

    Litter on a grand scale. Graffiti that lasts.

  • Serpiginous