Tomorrowland: Previewing Toronto's Architecture of the Future
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Tomorrowland: Previewing Toronto’s Architecture of the Future

A new exhibit shows what the future of Toronto development looks like.

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As Toronto’s astronomical rate of development shows no sign of slowing down, the debate surrounding the city’s future can be fraught with anxiety. New cranes continue to speckle the skyline, and the population of the downtown core is expected to almost double to 130,000 by 2031. Many experts worry that our aging infrastructure will have difficulty keeping up with this demand.

But starting today, visitors to Metro Hall (55 John Street) will have the opportunity to visit the “Toronto of the Future” and learn how the city’s top architects and planners are addressing these concerns in ambitious new developments.

Hosted by Chief City Planner Jennifer Keesmaat, the free week-long exhibitions showcase multiple major commercial, residential, and institutional real estate projects, as well as transportation and infrastructure developments that’ll be shaping our city for years to come.

For those who can’t get enough of Photoshopped skylines that make the rounds on social media, the exhibit will include dozens of 3D scale models, illustrations, renderings, and virtual presentations.

Carl Blanchaer—a Principal at WZMH Architects—will also be in attendance, sharing large-scale mockups of his firm’s “WaterPark Place” on Queens Quay, and the upcoming Parliament Street Data Centre.

Data centre photo rendering

Rendering of WZMH’s Parliament St. Data Centre

“Although we’re showing interesting photos and models of the building we’re creating, we’re also making a story about the opportunities to think big about Toronto in the future,” explains Blanchaer.

“I’m a firm believer in the city developing in a measured and mature way, but there are some unique opportunities where you can afford to break the mould. Some people may say that the Gehry buildings fit into that category, but I also think that the eastern waterfront is a place where we have the opportunities to do something very special, very iconic, and have it become the new postcard of Toronto—so it’s not just the CN Tower. But in order to do that, we have to ensure that it’s easily accessible, and that it has animated uses throughout the years.”

mirvish gehry podium public realm rendering

Rendering of the Mirvish+Gehry Towers

While the so-called “Manhattanization” of Toronto’s downtown core continues to face public criticism, Blanchaer has his sights set further East. “When you travel to other parts of the world, and I would say that Singapore is one of the best examples, there’s much dynamic and interesting architecture. We’re very practical here in Canada and Toronto. We’ve created great buildings, but they’re not outstanding like projects in other parts of the world are.”

Blanchaer has worked as an architect in the city since 1981, and sees the city as uniquely positioned to reverse this trend and build ambitious projects that still support our downtown residents. “Even back in ’81, the planning framework in the city had the bones of something that many other cities didn’t have,” explains Blanchaer, “and that was incentives to build mixed-use developments in the downtown. What that led to, even before the housing boom, was the construction of residential units in the downtown area so that the city was animated both day and night.”

As predicted in last year’s Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2015 report [PDF], mixed-use development appears to be priority for the majority of the exhibitors at “Toronto of the Future.” Attractive to both developers and residents, these projects integrate residential housing into commercial space.

So while Blanchaer may be dreaming big about the city’s next big statement piece, he’s actually most concerned about how our future planning and development can address our current anxieties.

“The concept of people actually being able to live downtown and get to work without driving any distance has to be the way of the future.”