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cityscape

Frank Gehry Refines His King Street Design

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

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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.

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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.

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