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Frank Gehry unveils new designs for King West towers

Posted by Chris Bateman / June 5, 2013

toronto mirvish gehryFrank Gehry's triptych towers planned for the Princess of Wales Theatre block have received their first major tweaks since being unveiled last October. The "sculptures that people can live in," to use the words of Gehry himself, now feature a wafting, "cloud-like" podium and far more exterior detail than the previous iteration.

The first concept, which Gehry said would change during his speech at the unveiling, has given way to some impressive visual refinements but the modifications do not address the main concerns the city expressed in its preliminary report released back in February, namely the height and loss of historic buildings.

toronto mirvish gehryThe latest concept appears to follow the lines of a secondary model unveiled with the original designs in October 2012. The east tower, planned for the other side of Ed Mirvish Way, is the most striking. An apparent relative of Gehry's warped and rippled 8 Spruce Street in New York City, though I'm told it's not intentional, the exterior cladding appears cut in pieces and draped off the tower.

Speaking with the Toronto Star's Christopher Hume, Gehry partner Craig Webb said the "cloud-like" podium that drifts halfway up all three of the towers is meant to convey "something silky and soft" and provide a sense of "lightness." The first version had something resembling torn strips of paper at the base.

The city has expressed concerns over the height of the towers and wants to see each one trimmed by around 30 floors. All three are currently over 80 stories. The loss of several heritage warehouses, a throwback to the days when this part of King West was a manufacturing district, is also a worry.

toronto mirvish gehry"We haven't modified the heights and we are hoping not to," says Peter Kofman, President of Projectcore Inc., the development management company behind the Mirvish+Gehry project.

"We really don't want these towers to be down at the level of adjacent buildings - we really want to create these iconic towers and have them stand out and have an expression against the skyline that's dramatic. We don't want to disappear behind other buildings here."

"I think the dialogue with the city has allowed us to take a particular direction and do things that are slightly different than they were previously."

toronto mirvish gehryThe white veil around the podium is made of glass and supported by wooden beams that are meant to evoke the historic interiors of the Eclipse White Wear and Anderson warehouse buildings that would be demolished were the project to proceed as-is. Despite the exterior developments, things are "very close" to the original inside.

"It's an evolving story and it's an interesting opportunity to create some great architecture and design" says Kofman. "It's a process, and we're hoping at the end of the day we've created the best thing we can create given the opportunities and constraints."


toronto mirvish gehryThe wooden model from the unveiling that the designs appear to closely match.

toronto mirvish gehryAn alternative close-up view of the wood and glass podium.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: Tom Ryaboi, Mirvish+Gehry, Projectcore Inc.



MS / June 5, 2013 at 12:18 pm
This is too pretty and graceful for Toronto...
Stra / June 5, 2013 at 12:20 pm
awesome! now build it!
Moneesha / June 5, 2013 at 12:22 pm
One word: spectacular!
shawn / June 5, 2013 at 12:29 pm
I can't wait to see the sheets of snow and ice falling onto the walking pedestrians in the winter...
Scott / June 5, 2013 at 12:32 pm
The opportunity to put these towers up and make history at the expense of a couple of heritage buildings is so overwhelming that I can't articulate how much I want this to happen.
Rex / June 5, 2013 at 12:38 pm
Like. If we're going to have 80-storey condo towers (not sold on those, btw), they might as well have some imagination. We have enough glass rectangles.

I also like the wood/glass podium in the last picture -- evokes the AGO a few blocks away, gives it a sense of place. This is an improvement over the last design.

Now, can we please make sure we build the transit to handle thousands of new residents on that block?
Nick / June 5, 2013 at 12:38 pm
We're not talking about "a couple" buildings.
Rick / June 5, 2013 at 12:49 pm
I like the designs and I love the height. Please don't make these smaller. They could be icons for the city.
The only issue in my eyes is tearing down the historic buildings.
Nick / June 5, 2013 at 12:54 pm
The historic buildings could be a brilliant podium for a larger project. Councillors know this. The Mirvish family knows this. Frank Gehry knows this. Knowing that pushback on this original design was inescapable, they likely have a "plan B" elevation that includes some or all of the historic structures, too. It's just a matter of letting voices be heard.

Let the local councillor know how you feel about the project, good or bad:
windexxxxx / June 5, 2013 at 12:56 pm
how you gonna hang a guy on a platform to wash the windows when the side of the building curves and juts out and is all fucked up all over the place
Bill / June 5, 2013 at 12:56 pm
Am I the only one wondering what the view will be like from the inside?
E. Toby Coke / June 5, 2013 at 12:59 pm
This nutbar project is worth mowing down the old warehouses for.

I've never been a fan of Gehry's phyllo pastry visions, but the towers poking out the top seal the deal for me.

Kelly / June 5, 2013 at 01:03 pm
Am I the only one who thinks these are awful? They look like they're about to fall apart. Also, where is the rain, snow, and ice to go when it slides off of those "silky" and "cloud-like" panels?
jen / June 5, 2013 at 01:06 pm
How the heck does ANY of that design evoke the spirit of the warehouses????
Gabe / June 5, 2013 at 01:15 pm
Remember just like the AGO it doesn't matter if it leaks water just that it looks good.
DL replying to a comment from shawn / June 5, 2013 at 01:15 pm
It's like these people completely ignore reality. Oh, let me build something crazy with surfaces extending in awkward forms over busy streets in a city that suffers from a weather phenomena known as "winter"! What's the worst that can happen?
Jacob / June 5, 2013 at 01:20 pm
They regularly tear down warehouses to put up cookie-cutter slabs of glass.

Put these up. PLEASE.
DL replying to a comment from shawn / June 5, 2013 at 01:21 pm
"heritage warehouses"

Like, really? When we began enforcing heritage designations on buildings, it was so brilliant old structures, like the former UCC campus at King and Simcoe for example, would be saved and our "heritage" properly utilized.

Not so warehouses where fucking cheese was once stored can stand in the way of what would be a major addition to the city's skyline. This city sometimes...
Period. / June 5, 2013 at 01:42 pm
The middle one is a god damn 80 floor advertisement for Tampax.
lister / June 5, 2013 at 01:52 pm

Never been a Frank Gehry fan. These three buildings don't help.

I'll be cursing these buildings every day I walk past them.

I don't mind something different. Plain glass condos suck as they look like office buildings. We don't need more plain glass condos. But those buildings are fugly. Let's see something else.
Scott / June 5, 2013 at 01:56 pm
This is a beautiful project, but there's no way the NIMBYs let it happen.
DL replying to a comment from lister / June 5, 2013 at 01:59 pm
All that white crap is killing me.

And the building on the left looks kinda like a Sears Tower ripoff.
wsam / June 5, 2013 at 01:59 pm
Yeah. We shouldn't build them. Too hard to clean. Too many curves. And. Where is all the green-glass? Toronto is known as the green-glass condo tower city. That is how people know us. Toronto needs to build on our existing reputation not invent one-wheeled bicycles all over again from our mayor's used crack pipes. That would be stupid and probably dangerous. You could get cut and the cut could get infected.

What I am trying to say is that I am wearing track pants.
Ian / June 5, 2013 at 02:09 pm
I actually like these.
RC / June 5, 2013 at 02:11 pm
Sorry, not a fan of this design. Was recently at AGO, Gehry portion. Fancy design has eye appeal but take a look at the actual spaces , they are dust filled, unusable portions, overall facade a beauty but so much space wasted supporting eye candy. This looks like more of the same
RC / June 5, 2013 at 02:17 pm
RC again. Forgot to mention. At AgO as and possibly this project "She's a real beauty to stand back and look at" (good for tourists)but the streetscape is very overbearing and is not comfortable at the pedestrian level. Actually creates a dead zone on the sidewalk.
( My analysis)
LoveNuts / June 5, 2013 at 02:18 pm
So I'm not the only person that has a problem with green glass? There's hope yet.

Jakob / June 5, 2013 at 02:28 pm
Can we get the city to revoke or reduce in height some of the other condo applications in that rough area? Maybe say no to the condo development threatening restaurant row just next door that no one actually wants? That would be the ideal outcome of this deal, imho.
George / June 5, 2013 at 02:41 pm
Please let this happen. Toronto needs to take some design chances. To me, it's a great sign that these images are causing such polarity. Nobody cares about the same old. New is always crazy...until it isn't.
lister replying to a comment from Jakob / June 5, 2013 at 02:47 pm
Why exactly are the restaurant row restaurants up in arms about the condo development on the SE corner of King & Peter?
Khristopher / June 5, 2013 at 02:49 pm
Amazing! I really do not want to see these shortened. They would lose their appeal completely.
yum / June 5, 2013 at 02:58 pm
They look like toffee and I want to eat them.
Todd Toronto / June 5, 2013 at 03:03 pm
Looks great. I wonder if this could be approved contingent on the design. Remember what happened with the Barclays Center in Brooklyn?
DL replying to a comment from lister / June 5, 2013 at 03:08 pm
Why, because the owners are screaming "More new residents to visit my restaurants more frequently? NEVER!"
Christopher King / June 5, 2013 at 03:15 pm
Fugliest condos I've ever seen. They look post-apocalypse, like something out of Jack Kirby's Kamandi series
Christopher King / June 5, 2013 at 03:16 pm
Mississauga gets the graceful and stylish Monroe condos and we get After Earth vomit
Benedict replying to a comment from Nick / June 5, 2013 at 04:07 pm
So many eyesores! Gone! HURRAY!@!
Benedict / June 5, 2013 at 04:09 pm
I like the fruit ninja one!
Dave Mallette / June 5, 2013 at 04:22 pm
I'm not feelin' it yet Frank and David - keep working on it
Adam / June 5, 2013 at 04:24 pm
Haven't had your dose of negativity for the day? Just head on over to the BlogTO comments! Any article, it doesn't matter which you choose! They're full of all your negativity needs!
Lorenzo Mignardi / June 5, 2013 at 04:25 pm
I like the buildings but, absolutely hate the height! 86 stories clearly shows that the mayor is on crack. Video or not. His actions prove it, way more than any video could.
dombhai / June 5, 2013 at 04:25 pm
Thank God... Toronto seems to be finally catching up with the rest of the world. Looks like architects are finally coming to town, what we had until now was bastardized architects with no sense of design or urban planning. Can't wait to see our skyline changed to something spectacular like these, we really are in stone age as far as urban architecture is concerned. All you see around is rectangular boxes rising out from ground. Finally someone is growing some balls...:)
Tripper / June 5, 2013 at 04:52 pm
If we were talking about architecturally or historically important heritage buildings I could understand the concern. But there's nothing special or important about these warehouses, old or not. Tear the ugly things down and put up these weird and wonderful pieces of art.

Let's freak it up a little, Toronto. Don't be so afraid. Worry about where the snow will land later.
supercilious replying to a comment from windexxxxx / June 5, 2013 at 04:54 pm
blerg / June 5, 2013 at 04:59 pm

Unfortunately, they will likely be ruined by city planners, council, neighbourhood whiners, or all of the above.
Rafa replying to a comment from Lorenzo Mignardi / June 5, 2013 at 04:59 pm
I would love to hear why you think the Mayor, as an individual, has anything to do with the height of these PROPOSED buildings...

Rob Ford is an idiot, but to blame him for this, you must also be hittin' the pipe.
NameGoesHere / June 5, 2013 at 05:02 pm
Not sure what the issue is with building the tallest buildings possible in the d/t core. If to combats urban sprawl and highrise condos in other parts of the city then isn't it a good thing?
JackOTrades / June 5, 2013 at 05:03 pm
Hats off to whoever designs window coverings that will work in there!
deb replying to a comment from wsam / June 5, 2013 at 05:05 pm
Haha! Keep wearing those track pants ... I accidentally wore crocs to the store yesterday. The shame.
IM / June 5, 2013 at 05:56 pm
A giant improvement over what is being built now! Get going and fast track the project. The questions I would ask are more structural. Can this design be actually built and will it withstand our climate?
Ernest Mordak / June 5, 2013 at 06:03 pm
Love love love. It saddens me hough, that Toronto will never have the vision to approve this. The municipal government of this city has been, and will continue to be blind to modern intellectual design. This city is too afraid of buildings such as these. Alas, we can always dream. Frank, you truly are a genius!
James replying to a comment from Kelly / June 5, 2013 at 06:13 pm
Kelly, I don't think they will just throw them together, there will obviously be some thought put into those factors. Which only makes sense.
Frank / June 5, 2013 at 06:22 pm
Plain don't understand individuals agitating on behalf of those old warehouses. Anybody who wants to preserve a post industrial, crumbling to dust wasteland of empty buildings as some kind of massive museum to glorify the failed mediocrity of ages past need only hop on a bus and go visit Buffalo or Detroit. Plenty of that in those towns. Lets move on, shall we?
Holy Thundering Jesus / June 5, 2013 at 07:24 pm
never gonna happen
Matt / June 5, 2013 at 07:47 pm
"The white veil around the podium is... meant to evoke the historic interiors of the Eclipse White Wear and Anderson warehouse buildings." Really? The only thing it evokes for me is a gaudy over-the-top wedding dress with too much taffeta.
yuck replying to a comment from Kelly / June 5, 2013 at 08:16 pm
I think these look like toilet paper with the poop. Awful.
John / June 5, 2013 at 08:47 pm
I have a roll of paper towels that unravelled a bit on my kitchen counter that looks exactly the same. Someone owes me a design credit.
Interesting... / June 5, 2013 at 09:01 pm
As Torontonians we often like to pat ourselves on the back for being a "world class city", but we often prevent ourselves from doing anything that remotely resembles ambition. I don't know why that is. Is it because we're afraid of screwing up? Anywhere else in the world and this project would be given the go ahead with minimal interference from the city. If these buildings are to go hope, I want them to go up as is, respecting Frank Gehry's vision. We have the opportunity to create something iconic. And it would be going in the entertainment district, not some suburb.
Interesting... replying to a comment from yuck / June 5, 2013 at 09:02 pm
This might come as a surprise, but the final design materials won't be plastic.
kb / June 5, 2013 at 09:05 pm
It is possible to have iconic buildings W/O the insane height. Really, guys. It's possible..
Terry / June 5, 2013 at 09:07 pm
Anyone else wish he'd come up with a people-scale project?
moi!! / June 5, 2013 at 09:11 pm
While I would love to see these buildings put up as they are depicted here, I dread what will actually be built once the cost-cutting is complete.
agnus / June 5, 2013 at 09:24 pm
absolutely horrid good for a fantasy film so totally unpractical.. hopefully this doesn't fly as i would have to view this monster daily from my condo
tom / June 5, 2013 at 09:39 pm
What a disaster. This is not iconic or innovative architecture.
This is called trying too hard at the expense of practicality and sustainability. It looks like a grade 2 papier mache project! Uglyrific, Frank Gaudy! And 86 stories? That's just not humane.
randyfitzimmons / June 5, 2013 at 10:05 pm
OK. No one is talking about this, so I will. HOW are all these extra people supposed to come in and out of an already insanely congested downtown with nothing but streetcars? WHEN ARE WE BUILDING SUBWAYS? The fact that no one talks about the logistics of this makes me crazy.
Lin / June 5, 2013 at 10:29 pm
I'm not a big artsy fartsy person..but I don't think I this design...what's all the hype?
Lin / June 5, 2013 at 10:29 pm
Luckysod / June 5, 2013 at 11:14 pm
Oh dear, more facadism coming to town. All these towers have eye-catching facades, but under them, they are just tall boxes. This isn't adventurous or even exciting architecture. It's just fancy wrapping.
Giancarlo / June 6, 2013 at 02:16 am
Gehry is a terrible architect, his proposal for the Eisenhower memorial is moronic and is more about Gehry than it is about Eisenhower. He is being sued for one of his ludicrous designs by MIT, because(surprise! surprise!), the building leaks.

Hopefully it doesn't get built but if it does at least the morons who buy this building will get what they deserve which is a perpetually high maintenance bill in the form of rising condo fees and astronomical levies to cover the cost of the design flaws.
choubz / June 6, 2013 at 03:44 am
Gehry is a boss
torontodude / June 6, 2013 at 06:32 am
tampon in the the left..a used one and to the right, a used one...oops! wrong hole...
John / June 6, 2013 at 09:46 am
Wow! These are truly ugly! What a mess!
Stella replying to a comment from MS / June 6, 2013 at 09:49 am
Ah yes, yet more apartments that the majority of people in this city cannot afford to live in - fantastic! genius! Bravo.

I am not blind to the beauty of the work, but if only someone put this much effort into affordable housing, what a wonderful world it would be.
scottd replying to a comment from Gabe / June 6, 2013 at 10:42 am
Different architect.
Moi replying to a comment from shawn / June 6, 2013 at 11:12 am
Lynn replying to a comment from windexxxxx / June 6, 2013 at 11:43 am
Maybe pitons could be strategically placed for wall/rock climbers to do the windows.
GRBYY / June 6, 2013 at 01:23 pm
These towers are next level! I fully support this project.

Toronto needs more innovation and this is a good start!

David Mirvish for Mayor!
Linden / June 6, 2013 at 09:26 pm
no offense to Gehry but these are hideous, or as my 7-year son put it it is embarrassing. King West should be the last place to have such building. Nice brick and stone, mid-rise would really compliment the street.
Alex / June 10, 2013 at 03:38 am
These are truly beautiful buildings. It would be shame if they were not built to the 80+ stories they want. Please build these!

Toronto needs something else in the skyline aside from the CN Tower, bank buildings, and a smattering of boring smaller (than the bank buildings) boxy glass condos.
Alex / June 10, 2013 at 01:19 pm
They look pretty, but I don't see how they could possibly be functional. Like everyone else has said, where will the snow and ice go? How will they clean the windows? How could you use that window wall if you owned one of these with it bulging in and out? I don't see these towers ever being built, and if they are then the owners and pedestrians will probably regret it.
Serb / June 11, 2013 at 03:13 am
Beautiful? Maybe, if you're a girl looking at it.

Usable? Functional? Not even close.

This Gehry guy needs to get an engineer on board and consult with him before coming up with any of these designs, as this is yet another example of something being pulled out of a designer's a$$ with zero thought for actual usability and functionality (or lack of).

Winter, snow, cleaning, safety concerns, on and on - all valid issues to be looked at before approving anything like this.
Towing Service in Sun Valley / June 21, 2013 at 09:37 am
I needed to thank you for this great read!!
I absolutely enjoyed every little bit of it. I've got you saved as a favorite to check out new stuff you post…
Gluyas replying to a comment from Serb / June 4, 2014 at 09:12 pm
Good grief! Who knew there were so many engineering experts here? Gehry has built many fantastic structures and none of them has fallen down yet. Even though he was born here around 80 years ago, Toronto is not obviously still not ready for him.
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