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What are the best & worst Toronto buildings from 2013?

Posted by Chris Bateman / May 8, 2014

toronto river cityIt's time once again to look back and take stock of the last year in Toronto architecture. The annual PUG Awards, now in its 10th year, is the public's chance to cast judgement on the most prominent buildings completed in 2013. This year, a total of 43 developments await our laurels and darts.

These days, the PUG awards are less about heckling the architects of heinous buildings than they are about celebrating strong design and bold, successful architecture. But by allowing the public to vote whether they "love," "like," or "hate" a new development, the awards still provide means for people to reject the dreary, uninspired, or downright ugly.

Here are some nominees for the best and worst of 2013.

BRIDGEPOINT ACTIVE HEALTHCAREtoronto bridgepoint healthThe looming, semi-transparent Bridgepoint Health development dominates the west side of the Don Valley at Gerrard Street. The light-filled addition to what was once the dark and brooding Don Jail involved the demolition of the much-loved "half-round" building and the less popular modern prison wing that faced Broadview. The wider development is still incomplete, but the hospital building with its green roof terrace opened for patients in 2013. Fans laud the airiness of the design, critics say it's too overbearing on its perch overlooking the Don Valley.

RIVER CITY - PHASE 1toronto river cityAfter the failure of the Ataratiri housing project in 2001, it seemed the West Don Lands would be forever a forlorn post-industrial wasteland. Now, thanks to Waterfront Toronto, life is returning to the mouth of the Don. Toronto Star architecture critic Christopher Hume gave the black aluminium-clad River City condos an "A+" rating, calling it "a work of considerable sophistication," and the comments on the PUG awards site seem to back-up his verdict. The angular blocks look like they could have been honed out of an obsidian cliff. Dramatic and bold.

MARKET WHARFtoronto market wharfThe fluid white lines of the 33-storey, mixed-use Market Wharf development look like wisps of high cirrus cloud or foamy ocean waves (never mind that Toronto is on a lake.) Down at street level, the brick podium mirrors the neighbouring St. Lawrence Market building despite harbouring a horrendous Shoppers Drug Mart. It's an eclectic mix of old and new materials that seems to be broadly popular. Some people don't seem to like the width of the tower, however.

toronto 300 frontThe whopping 49-storey 300 Front condominium tower looks set to prop up the bottom of this year's rankings. It's gigantic, graceless, and neither blends in nor stands out from its surroundings. The Minecraft zebra striped addition does a good job of blocking views of the transformer station to the north, but judging by the feedback on the PUG site, that isn't going to be enough to redeem 300 Front. "What a complete disaster," says one commenter. "A cheap and bumbled mess," says another. Oh dear.

FLY CONDOMINIUMStoronto fly condosI suspect the naming agency that selected the title for this development were trying to evoke Bette Midler but, unfortunately, ended up with something closer to The Offspring. Fly Condominiums does have some nice touches - the arrangement of the west balconies act like a maze puzzle for the eyes and there's a little interior courtyard - but on balance there's something not quite right here. Perhaps its the needlessly drab horizontal slabs at street level or the forgettable facades that look out over Clarence Square and Front St. Fly Condos will likely score somewhere near the bottom.

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

Images: Tom Arban; Ben Rahn, A-Frame Studio/PUG Awards, Wallman Architects



KevinN / May 8, 2014 at 04:27 pm
It's pretty sad that most of the new buildings have no direct relation or contribution to street level nor do it seem to inspire anything logical within its surrounding context. Build just to build, no wonder in 10 years it looks like a bad idea.

All these buildings are just boxes shifted like its previous era. When will Toronto ever see a diagrid design? Or something outside it's norm. Oh wait, the building code.... right. I guess it starts there.
W. K. Lis / May 8, 2014 at 04:34 pm
Where's the bicycle parking? Where's the auto-sharing slots?
Josh / May 8, 2014 at 04:49 pm
You outta add architect's names onto this list, terrible architecture should get terrible advertising.
Yawn / May 8, 2014 at 06:33 pm
Most of Toronto architecture never fails to disappoint.
Natalie / May 8, 2014 at 06:43 pm
Yonge and Rich win for worst name...
nb / May 8, 2014 at 06:54 pm
All these buildings are the worst. They all suck. Developers don't care about architecture. They care about money.
linden / May 8, 2014 at 06:54 pm
I often pass by 300 FRONT and noticed the balconies on the lower condo look like elevator cabins. Too bad there are not, the residents would have convenient and faster way to get to their units.
very boring looking building actually
w-hat / May 8, 2014 at 07:27 pm
River city? It's an alley of condos facing other condos. Maybe you're lucky and have a ground floor unit and get to look at the long line of cars coming up to King instead (because they closed the other access from Bayview extension. Good work guys!
Anastasia replying to a comment from KevinN / May 8, 2014 at 08:39 pm
Couldn't agree more. The pedestrians and cyclists are second and third-class citizens in these developments. It's painful to see Toronto turn into one of these cities that doesn't value it's streetsscape. The city and developers are designing for cars, not people.
iliveattheverve / May 8, 2014 at 08:58 pm
I've always enjoyed the work of saucier + perrotte (River City). their work never fails to stun.
Hector / May 8, 2014 at 08:59 pm
Darn I thought I was going to win by saying bike parking first, do I get points for saying streetscape. This City is two ideas away from being fantastic.
Ugh / May 8, 2014 at 10:03 pm
Is this a joke.......can someone who actually knows about architecture write these articles.....?
James W / May 8, 2014 at 10:53 pm
Crawling along the Lakeshore in a bus last Sunday I was shocked when I actually LOOKED at what has happened to the city. Condos shoehorned in next to each other with cranes occupying the rare spaces between. Far too late for an "official plan" I wonder what has become of the city I grew up in not that long ago. No city should change this drastically this quickly. I hate to say it of the city I was raised in and used to's out of control and it's time for me to plan my escape route...
Michael / May 8, 2014 at 11:44 pm
Without having read anything here, and based on comments that's a good thing, the Bridgepoint building looks like a great place to kick the bucket!
Cement Bloq / May 9, 2014 at 12:19 am
Tdot builders tend to play safe: pre-cast envelopes, glass cladding, copycat fixtures/furniture, low-ceilings, small sqfootage, same architects, same designers, same fucking tradespeople. Its no surprise Tdot condos kinda all look the sam, with a tweak here & there. Tdot needs better city planners. Better council people who arent making back-room deals to.squeeze in every builder into every inch of space. 30% of condo buyers are canadians living working here. 70% are foreigners parking their money and waiting to ride out storms in venezuela, iran, iraq, egypt, syria, ukraine, greece, just about any conflict ridden place. Most condo dwellers are renters. A sad and grim statistic which the Harpercons will never share with general public.
Gary / May 9, 2014 at 01:43 am
300 Front looks nothing like that picture, which makes it look mostly white, with strips of grey. In actuality, it's an ugly, grey spandrel mess. The all grey building is depressing and a major eye sore for this city. God, I hate it so much!
bill replying to a comment from James W / May 9, 2014 at 03:59 am
Bye Bye
Steve replying to a comment from James W / May 9, 2014 at 05:25 am
Your preference is a city that sat idle for 60 yrs. With a waterfront that was a toxic wasteland of abandoned industrial sites, great swaths of unused rail lands, parking lots on every corner occupying a third of the city. You like the way residential towers were built in the 50's blankly occupying a street with a large parcel of land faceless no stores no commercial space.
You want a sleepy little town that never changes you can find a dead industrial town in the US they have a lot, try Detroit or Buffalo.
Steve replying to a comment from Cement Bloq / May 9, 2014 at 05:33 am
You do not get out of the city very often do you? Toronto is not unique in its buildings. Why would a city with the vibrancy and economy like Toronto leave its land empty and not allow investors and developers build? How do you figure the construction boom is corruption?
Why is foreign investment so bad for Toronto, or is just you do not like foreigner? Do you some how feel that you are not being allowed to invest because you are not foreigner? How do you feel about Canadian investing outside their country?
Your comments stink of something.
kn / May 9, 2014 at 07:37 am
Saucier + Perrotte are brilliant. Their building in River city actually has some resemblance of a responsible, scaled response to it's site - unlike 90% of the buildings being created in the last 20 years in Toronto. Unfortunately, our city council has been complicit in the mindless overdevelopment of our city. Oh you want a 80 story building filled with 500 sq ft shoe boxes? Sure sounds good. Anybody remember what happened to St. Jamestown? Rogers centre area, Liberty village, Regent park, and soon Atkinson coop/Alexandra park. Ugly overdevelopment.

Ironically, Adam Vaughan, yammers on and on about how he wants more families living downtown, yet he then turns around and celebrates the approval of the massive overdevelopment of Alexandra park. It's the same garbage. Overdevelopment is not a substitute for good, responsible design that provides housing for everyone.
kn / May 9, 2014 at 04:20 pm
You don't need to be an "instant expert" to know that walking in a wind tunnel, completely devoid of green space, or locally run businesses or ....wait, how about a building that actually functions? Like responds to modern necessities like recycling? I guess I won't bring up falling windows .... meh, screw quality. They will just replace those windows soon, so that won't be a problem for too long. And why don't we have a panel of architects & independent planners reviewing proposals instead of clowns like Adam Vaughan and/or the OMB? (I won't mention Rob since that would be kicking somebody when he's down. Bad form)

I'll tried not to mention design too much. We are Canadian....If you want to see some brilliant modern design look at what Berlin has built.

James Punt / May 9, 2014 at 05:20 pm
There's a world outside Toronto people.
Its amazing that in a country as vast as Canada is and the sheer amount of land available to build on, we try to put up as many tall buildings as close to each other as possible to ensure people live in the downtown core for "work"..... This will ruin Toronto in the long run - do we really think that these are investments any more? Do you think a 500K condo will be work $800k-$1mil in 10-15 years with the sheer amount of new builds going up?

Toronto is not New York City, nor will it ever be, so the speculators must stop driving this affluent metropolis BS lifestyle down everyone's throats because you know what? They are the one's getting rich while buyers will only suffer....

Doesn't take much to look into the futre with this one Citidiots.

Mike / May 9, 2014 at 05:37 pm
St Jamestown had a flaws, like too much surface parking, weird elevated park etc. it's actual form of high density and good location are pretty good. It's nice to live there because the units are sturdy and you can walk anywhere. The worst place to live is a place like that In the middle of nowhere scarberia. I'm happy to see more high rises downtown. Do you forget how boring and windy and dangerous parking lots downtown were?
kn / May 10, 2014 at 08:45 am
Hot air, I've been to Berlin twice. I'm referring to the building created after the city was reunited. They have instated a very strict building code they requires a min standard of design/materials/footprint and review process etc. Most of the best modern architects have built in the core of the Berlin.

or maybe basel

and before you ask if I've been to Basel, the answer is yes. Herzog & deMeuron are brilliant. We need them to design a couple buildings here.
kn / May 10, 2014 at 01:18 pm
over it, while I'm being condescending, I'll add that name calling is the last refuge for the out argued.

I'll also add, that the overdevelopment of downtown Toronto with anonymous towering condo after another and the absence of any public transit expansion, is proof that Adam Vaughan and the other city councillors have proven they are incapable of making a reasonable judgement decisions. We all here Adam cry on and on about ridding the city of the OMB but he hasn't offered any real solutions. (obviously he has no clue, he's the same person who said that we should ban guns from Toronto. Maybe he doesn't realize Toronto isn't a country?)
Rick replying to a comment from kn / May 12, 2014 at 03:33 pm
I thought Adam "The Moron" Vaughan wanted to ban ammunition and gun clubs in Toronto.....

What a fucking dumb ass he is, seriously, what fucking world does this delusional pansy live in? At least he's off council now... but he ain't getting elected for anything for anything though....
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