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David Mirvish unveils revised Gehry tower project

Posted by Chris Bateman / May 28, 2014

toronto mirvish gehryDavid Mirvish might get his mega-tall King Street West condo after all. The theatre and art magnate unveiled a set of heavily revised plans for a pair of residential towers that would see several historic warehouses and the Princess of Wales Theatre survive.

Mirvish and architect Frank Gehry unveiled the first version of the proposal in October 2012 to mixed reviews. The massive reworking of the block on the north side of King, east of John, would have seen three giant residential buildings, each with a uniquely surreal exterior cladding, built in place of the Mirvish family's flagship theatre and several protected former factories. "I am building three sculptures that people can live in," Mirvish said at the time.

Critics said the proposal was too dense for the already crowded King corridor. Chief city planner Jennifer Keesmaat said the designs lacked amenity space and gave little in the way of benefit to the surrounding neighbourhood. The heritage department worried about the possible loss of five historic warehouse buildings, one of which was the former home of the Toronto Sun.

toronto mirvish gehryThe response from Mirvish, who seems to view the project as his legacy to the city (his dad gave us Honest Ed's and a thriving theatre scene,) is to make several concessions. One of the towers has been dropped and the majority of the warehouses are targeted for renovation. The Princess of Wales Theatre, which would have been knocked down under the original plans, is also expected to stick around.

The new proposal is still tall. The biggest of the buildings would top out at 93-storeys and be about six metres taller than First Canadian Place, the country's tallest structure that isn't the CN Tower or the Inco Superstack. A rooftop addition to the Eclipse Whitewear Building at the corner of John, which is currently home to a Tim Hortons, would become a publicly-accessible home for Mirvish's extensive art collection.

OCAD U is expected to get its second campus within the development as originally planned.

The designs are still preliminary, but Gehry is expected to work in about 2,000 residential units into the towers, the smaller of which will be 82-storeys. The exterior is meant to evoke waterfalls, tumbling into a pool either side of Duncan Street. Other parts are supposed to resemble clay.

It appears the new plans have something approaching widespread approval. A local working group set up by former city councillor Adam Vaughan has already expressed its satisfaction, as has Keesmatt. But before the designs can become reality, the project will need to clear community council and city council, most likely in July.

What do you think of the latest version of Mirvish+Gehry?


toronto mirvish gehryThe view of the towers from the north.

toronto mirvish gehryLooking from the the east.

toronto mirvish gehryView from the John Street area.

toronto mirvish gehryWest along King Street.

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

Images: Mirvish+Gehry, Projectcore Inc.



Marky / May 28, 2014 at 09:40 am
These are awesome! Finally some condos and buildings that aren't just boring glass rectangles.
damon / May 28, 2014 at 09:40 am
Classic Toronto.

Image two (previous iteration) is phenomenal. this revision is pretty unremarkable I have to say.

z / May 28, 2014 at 09:40 am
sad that not even Gehry can get anything except a glass box built in this city
Christopher King / May 28, 2014 at 09:41 am
iSkyscraper / May 28, 2014 at 09:46 am
There is a lot of talk that these are a "grown-up" version of Fred and Ginger, a famous pair of Gehry buildings:

I'm not sure about that, but I am glad the theatre is being saved (it would be wasteful to junk a fully up to date Broadway house) and the new buildings will be just fine. It's basically two of these:
y / May 28, 2014 at 09:50 am
I prefer the old design :(
Matt / May 28, 2014 at 09:53 am
Baby steps for Toronto I guess. There's are still very interesting, landmark buildings that will be welcome additions to our otherwise bland, utilitarian skyline.
Poopdawg / May 28, 2014 at 09:56 am
The original proposal is soooo much better. The revision looks like it was redesigned out of spite.
It will still be impressive once built, but the originals would have been stunning.
RishiL / May 28, 2014 at 10:00 am
It's nice that they were able to come to a consensus without going to the OMB, that allows for the grandeur & skyline impact, of 2 huge towers, however preserves some more of the cultural space.

that being said... the new designs are SUPER BORING compared to round 1. Couldn't they have done 2 towers but use the older/better design?
Rae / May 28, 2014 at 10:05 am
93 Stories is TOO TALL. Bring it down a bit David.
Chris / May 28, 2014 at 10:08 am
Noooooooo!!!!! I was so excited for this project but this redesign looks so awful!! Please please go back to the previous design!
iliveattheverve / May 28, 2014 at 10:12 am
I kinda get the sense that the first design was "so out there", knowing that The City wouldn't improve them, so that they could get something "interesting" improved, like these.

David can't add to his father's (theatre) legacy (this city doesn't seem to support the Arts), so he may as well try and get Toronto what they love: condos.
Rafa / May 28, 2014 at 10:13 am
You take a block from the bottom and you put it on top, you take a block from the middle and you put it on top...j-j-j-jenga!
Marie / May 28, 2014 at 10:16 am
What a tacky design! And 93 stories is WAY TOO TALL for residential. This will be an EYE_SORE in Toronto's skyline.
Jofa / May 28, 2014 at 10:17 am
The request was to go to two towers not three not sure why the redesign has to be so drastic from the originals.

Why can't David add to his fathers Theatre Legacy? His father seemed to do just fine with his own money in this city that doesn't support the arts. OHHH thats right, its his Fathers Legacy that he built on his own NOT Davids. Legacy cannot be inherited.
RLW / May 28, 2014 at 10:21 am
Seriously...this is what Gehry and Mirvish come up with?! Like Poopdawg said, "The revision looks like it was redesigned out of spite" I'm cool with the height, but WTF on the straight boxy typical forgettable Toronto condo vernacular.
Al / May 28, 2014 at 10:30 am
Much more simple than the original. Couldn't they have saved the middle tower from the original proposal? That was a beauty.
Borte / May 28, 2014 at 10:40 am
These new towers appear to have been damaged by a 9.0 earthquake.
EC / May 28, 2014 at 10:43 am
Did some high school kid make these models in a woodworking class?
Brace yourself / May 28, 2014 at 10:44 am
A project any other city would kill to have, marred by predictable insecure, smug whining. Sigh.
matts / May 28, 2014 at 10:49 am
I liked the old design a lot but never thought that even if approved it would be built to look exactly like that. I would be happy if in real life the buildings ended up somewhere in between the old and new designs. And no cheap cladding like ROM, please (another interesting design that flopped in execution)
Arturo / May 28, 2014 at 10:59 am
Not as ugly as the first designs, but still ugly.
Brace yourself for a leaky mess ready to crumble replying to a comment from Brace yourself / May 28, 2014 at 11:00 am
Do we really need another Gehry building that is all just a visual stunt but doesn't function properly. Numerous of his buildings have been known to have design flaws that cause leaks, etc. Do we really need a 93 story building with basic flaws in it towering over our city. If he can't even get a 4-5 story building 100% right why should we trust him with 93 stories in Toronto.
kevinn / May 28, 2014 at 11:00 am
93 stories? Why not 150 stories? Why not 400?

So over the measuring contest. Put it back in your pants, guys.
Captain / May 28, 2014 at 11:08 am
There was no intention to actually build the other project. The story is unfolding just as it was planned to unfold. I don't know if Mr. Mirvish knows anything about architecture - but he clearly knows drama.
Iby / May 28, 2014 at 11:11 am
The first design was splendid, this one is Dubai-ish

Size does matter replying to a comment from kevinn / May 28, 2014 at 11:15 am
Why 93 stories because that wold make it the tallest building in Toronto.

The current tallest is First Canadian place at 72 stories.
R / May 28, 2014 at 11:18 am
I like the first design better.

The new renderings are boring.
Kurt / May 28, 2014 at 11:23 am
Unfortunate. When one contrasts the original vision with what's to come....

Toronto is a town that's always either looking over it's shoulder, or craning it's neck to see what's happening down the street. Toronto is a city that wants to think it can run with the big boys but it has no ambition to stick out or get too far ahead of the pace.

The original design was a red carpet turn. Beautiful. Sculpted. Proud. Confident. Stunning. Unique.

The new presentation looks like a well turned out couple at the charity ball.

The original vision was a standout. The new edition blends.

Ah well... that's Toronto for ya.
Regan / May 28, 2014 at 11:28 am
These towers look interesting on paper, but would amount to massive dated eyesores within the decade, as styles change. These also would look nothing like the renderings. Just look at The ROM now, compared to the rendering, both the original glass and revised steel siding versions. The finished product is an umglamorous disaster.
Hugh / May 28, 2014 at 11:39 am
No matter what the designs looks like from the location they're going in you'll never be able to stand back to get a good look at the actual real buildings, you'll be able to stand on the side walk right out front and stare straight up at them OR you may see them on your Toronto Skyline postcard and placemat.
Anthony / May 28, 2014 at 12:42 pm
Incredible (re)vision. This development is incredible, and amazing to see the heritage properties set for a restoration. Canada needs something this forward thinking and conceptual. Also a bonus to get a supertall, and see something taller than First Canadian Place.
Paul N / May 28, 2014 at 12:55 pm
What I'd really like to see is a detailed rendering of street level where most of us will interact with it. If it's all shadows and flat walls of glass like the TIFF building at street level, then it will do more harm than good. I liked the original proposal because it had a really vibrant and engaging street level concept.
Mike / May 28, 2014 at 01:04 pm
At least they are not demolishing the Princess of Wales Theatre. These crooked box skyscrapers are still boring though. One expects so much more from Gehry.
Ray / May 28, 2014 at 01:08 pm
Agree. Typical Toronto. Can we stop with the pathetical desperate 'world class city' tag already?? We will never be with this kind of timid approach to urban planning and design. When these bold project announcements come out (remember the Waterfront redevelopment bids??), I don't know why we kid ourselves into thinking they WON'T get watered down to something unremarkable. I just knew this would happen when the first design proposal came out. The original was bold and exciting and would really be a first for Toronto and garner international attention, but now the new design, while, don't get me wrong, is still a nice design, seems bland, boring and your typical tall steel and glass skyscraper with a few desperate flourishes to try and squeeze some artistic element in somewhere. A shame we restrict an artistic/architectural genius like Gehry in his home town.
Bob / May 28, 2014 at 01:21 pm
To everyone complaining that the original design was better:

It was never going to get built that way. Those designs were a publicity stunt to try to distract from the many problems with the project. In the original announcement, they clearly stated that these were concepts, and not the final design.

Those original designs were literally just a bunch of pieces of cardboard that Gehry and his designers glued together in their studio. See this video to see how he works on design concept:

The original designs were concepts, and NOT seriously thought out and ready to build!
Josh / May 28, 2014 at 02:12 pm
It's definitely a step back from where it was - hopefully some of the original magic will return to this project. Obviously the original proposal wasn't going to be built as-is - but when a project's dragged through the mud like this one was - it inevitably set's it back. It's also not a good sign that Gehry was absent this time around.
LovinIt! / May 28, 2014 at 02:52 pm
Rafa > LMAO.

I'll tell you what I like. I'm relieved Princess Of Whales will be saved, I love the artistic expression and the idea of having another landmark here in Toronto. My concern? As visions of the movie "Towering Inferno" dance through my head, I got to ask "Is it safe?"
Andy / May 28, 2014 at 02:59 pm
The original design was much better!!

This is barely even a design it looks like your basic building tower with the top 12 floors shifted over a little.

Camila / May 28, 2014 at 03:32 pm
The second design makes me rethink about purchasing into the project. Its not daring enough. A historic opportunity wasted.
DL replying to a comment from Bob / May 28, 2014 at 04:04 pm
It's okay to understand that the original concept was just that, a concept, and at the same time be disappointed that the final outcome is what we see here. I'm hugely disappointed that after a decade+ of intense high-rise construction, Toronto finally had a chance to build something iconic and we're ending up with ordinary.
Sandman / May 28, 2014 at 04:13 pm
Gehry+Mirvish homogenized again by Toronto
Dr. Freud / May 28, 2014 at 04:30 pm
2 penises...I approve! Frank Gehry clearly hated his mother but loved his father.
Ray replying to a comment from Sandman / May 28, 2014 at 04:39 pm
Who says Gehry+Mirvish were homogenized by Toronto? They can come up with other concepts. Its pretty foolish to just come up with one execution, can they not push the boundaries at all themselves, it's their ideas.
James replying to a comment from DL / May 28, 2014 at 04:42 pm
Yes I'm mostly disappointed in the designers. The original was only a concept and there were some concerns but the designers came up with second concept themselves.
evan / May 28, 2014 at 05:36 pm
Final draft: L L L
bill replying to a comment from z / May 28, 2014 at 05:54 pm
What the hell is wrong with you were do you see a glass box?
spatula / May 28, 2014 at 06:42 pm
is crooked
Herne / May 28, 2014 at 09:05 pm
The phrase, "this is crap" comes to mind.

Also we have enough freaking condos now.
AW / May 28, 2014 at 09:23 pm
Man, some people's attitude in this city suck. As someone that's lived here all my life I say get out of here and let us move forward into the future. "it's too tall... it's too different..." well, sorry to say, but that attitude is WHY you have shitty glass condo bricks. Mirvish is leaving us a world renowned art collection, and two 90 story sculptures. I might add this my very well be Gehry's last project ever. There are hundreds of cities around the world that literally beg for this sort of thing. These attitudes are quite an unbelievable approach.
JZ replying to a comment from AW / May 28, 2014 at 11:37 pm
Don't think of it too much, I mean we already have some Gehry buildings here and they haven't drastically changed or defined the landscape of the city. Yes could be cool for coolness factor, but not a game changer.
Grbu / May 29, 2014 at 12:07 am
They really disappointed with this redesign. It's an unremarkable design in contract to the original conception. If built, (the original) would've been the worlds most creative new condo build.

This is just another bland Toronto condo with some Ghery design elements. Wah wahhh.
Ibere / May 29, 2014 at 01:09 am
Toronto loves boring. We are The Boring Manhattan. God forbid something interesting to be built in this city, let's keep erecting uninspired green glass residential condos and terrible corporate architecture like 10 Dundas East.
WTF? / May 29, 2014 at 01:43 am
You call that boring? . Take your TO hate and hit the 401.
kn / May 29, 2014 at 10:44 am
Dog vomit. Lipstick on a pig....

The design might be fine as was the original proposal but why do we need 90 story buildings?

Stop trying to build a monument to your egos.
kn / May 29, 2014 at 11:15 am
This is Toronto STILL trying to emulate NY city. After all of these years Canadians...errr Torontonians can't imagine a world that is unique from our brash neighbours to the south. I can just see all of the pretentious clowns with their 5 dollar decaf lattes reading the NY Sunday times loving this proposal. I'd much rather have our city planners and architects look to Europe or Scandinavia rather than the Good ol' USA for inspiration. Small is beautiful.
Typical Canadians / May 29, 2014 at 12:08 pm
Any Vancouverites or Montrealers who still haven't gotten their digs in because these developers choose Toronto and not their cities should step forward now. Don't hold back; use all the old clichés your daddy taught you:

1)Center of the Universe
3)They think they are New York City
4)They think they are so Big
5)They have no World Class Mountains
6)Too hot
7)Too cold
8)Too big
9)Too small
10)Their poutine and bagels are nothing like ours
11)Not enough hippies
12)No night life and not enough third rate "French" bistros.
13)Not enough raw food vegan drop in centers.
14)Our bars stay open one whole world class hour longer
and we're working hard to make it two in order to stay ahead.
15)plus an assortment of grand sounding vague esoteric
criticisms (Lacks a certain "je ne sais quoi". Lacks soul. I can't put my finger on it but blah blah blah).

Go on!! Get it all out!!
Poutine replying to a comment from Typical Canadians / May 29, 2014 at 12:50 pm
It's pronounced putsin not poohteen!
gregg replying to a comment from Typical Canadians / May 29, 2014 at 12:52 pm
I feel safe from these designs in Kathleen Wynnes transparent safe hands. It's Kathleen's Ontario the rest of us just fund it!
kn replying to a comment from Typical Canadians / May 29, 2014 at 01:03 pm
I've lived in Toronto all of my life. So my comments are based on what I see everyday. Mr. decaf latte sipping dullard.
Typical Canadians to kn / May 29, 2014 at 01:20 pm
I believe you, kn. Millions wouldn't, but I do. Because I'm just that kind of guy. Have a nice life and consider moving somewhere else; you won't hurt our feelings.
kn replying to a comment from Typical Canadians to kn / May 29, 2014 at 01:34 pm
You probable don't even buy your decaf latte at Dark Horse....that would be too indie....
kc / May 29, 2014 at 04:17 pm
opportunity wasted. SAD SAD SAD. They should have kept some elements from the previous designs, otherwise it's just another FORGETTABLE condo project. Let's all hope it is not final. Please Toronto don't mess this up
Olivia / May 29, 2014 at 10:45 pm
The original designs were better!!
Larry / May 30, 2014 at 12:28 am
Wow some of you folks sure can be meanspirited and nasty! Now THATS the Toronto I know and love (not).
Ace / May 30, 2014 at 11:27 am
What I dont understand is if they simply removed one tower and kept the other two at the same height, why they couldn't keep the old design?
This was compromise in the wrong direction. The three previous towers were truly remarkable, unique and landmark worthy. Perhaps the developer realized that the cost of building the previous designs (extremely elaborate as they were) was cost prohibitive?
Dr. Freud / May 30, 2014 at 12:05 pm
Thank you all for completing this psychological test aimed at measuring the sexualty of non-Torontonians. Our findings: penis love is rampant and is approximentally 100%! Doesn't bode well for heterosexuals outside Toronto!
Think for a minute. Just one. / May 31, 2014 at 01:25 am
For those who complain that the original designs are not being built, stop for a moment and try to figure out how could they ever be built???? They were concepts; pretty and sculptural. But there is no way they were intended to be the final project.
Penises, Penises, Penises...and More Penises! / June 1, 2014 at 01:36 pm
Isn't there any other way? TOO MANY erections in the downtown core! It's erectile dysfunction!
NYC / June 5, 2014 at 12:19 pm
I prefer image two design, looks like it grown by nature. I wish it be possible to build. Other designed looks to boxy for me.
Gehry is a genius he should build what he thinks is right!
15+ years of experience in design speaking here.
White Stuff? / June 6, 2014 at 10:54 am
I would like to ask Dr. Freud a question: if the towers are phallic symbols, what can the white stuff at the bottom of the second pictures from the top?
Bob / June 6, 2014 at 05:59 pm
Gehry's architectural style are buildings that look like they are wrapped in crooked metal sheet.

hire a real architect to design something classy, not some fad
ALEX replying to a comment from EC / July 11, 2014 at 10:01 am
YES! These new models are a mess. Unacceptable
DANIEL replying to a comment from Typical Canadians / July 11, 2014 at 03:43 pm
Your comment is brilliant I couldn't agree more! The jealousy of other cities pretending to "hate" us-Toronto but really they are envious get over IT!
GeorgeC / July 11, 2014 at 10:16 pm
These will be a construction nightmare. The Absolute in Mississauga was a construction nightmare. Concept and reality all need a check here. I've work on 20 condo project in the GTA including Mississauga equaling 8000 condo suites plus 2000 townhomes . People have no idea what it takes to pull off construction feats of this magnitude, but once it's done it's an incredible feel of accomplishment.
Other Cities: Montreal