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The Best (and Worst) of Toronto Architecture

Condos near-universally panned at the 2014 Pug Awards.

The good, the not-bad, and the pugly were all on display Wednesday night at the 10th annual Pug Awards, which celebrate the best—and mildly reprove the worst—in Toronto architecture.

Phase one of River City, a condo development in the West Don Lands, took home the People’s Choice Award for the best residential building completed last year. A film noir in condo form, it’s stylish and even a little bit sexy with its black aluminum cladding and windows set elegantly askew.

Of the 32 residential buildings nominated, just seven received positive scores from the voting public—reflecting a distaste for the often monotonous condo towers constantly springing up across the city.

Commercial and institutional buildings fared better: of 11 nominees, only three were given negative ratings. The people’s choice was the new Bridgepoint Hospital, in Riverdale. Key to the facility’s design are its narrow, asymmetrically placed box windows. They complement their rigidly aligned counterparts on the adjacent former Don Jail, newly adapted as the administrative wing of Bridgepoint—a project for which the hospital collected a second Pug Award, for adaptive reuse and heritage restoration.

This year’s ceremony marks the end of the people’s choice Pug Awards, and two special categories—recognizing the best residential and the best commercial buildings of the past 10 years—were instituted for the occasion. Betraying a fondness for cuboids of various sizes, the people chose 500 Wellington and the Gardiner Museum, respectively.

As for the very worst of 2013, the Pugs recognized the three least-admired buildings in the residential and commercial-institutional categories—those that received dishonourable mentions include The Avanti, a condo that was not so much built as rubber-stamped onto Sheppard Avenue West; Bridge and Connect condos, a jagged, Dr. Caligari-esque set piece writ boring; and the Ripley’s aquarium, which looks like a whitewashed F-117 filled with fish.

Peruse the gallery and check out all of the winners, the honourable mentions, and of course, the losers.


  • rich1299

    Apparently my tastes in architecture are way out of line with the people who vote for the Pug awards. That River City condo is easily the butt ugliest thing I’ve ever seen, perhaps if it were clad in something other than aluminum it might possibly be less ugly. at ground level its just glass and bare concrete. To my eyes “boring condo” might not be a stand out centre piece condo but to my eyes its a fine looking building with good proportions, lines, and ground level.

    I do like the Bridgeport hospital addition but I can’t see how it compliments anything about the old Don Jail liek the its blurb claims. Contrasting old and new often works well but if it weren’t for that contrast the new bits would really lose out. The first few glass box towers would look good contrasting with the older architecture but when there is only glass box towers the entire are becomes mind numblingly dull and boring.

    The schools look alright, bland but not horrible besides how grand can any public school building be? They hardly belong in a category with buildings paid for by donations from the ultra wealthy who want a tax write off.

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    There should be a site where stuff like this is documented in condo buildings, like that bed bug Google Map for rentals.

  • Mark Li

    Treviso Condos have nice design for that area, also the 501 Yonge Condos have a good looking as well in yonge/wellesley. found the info in Here