For an architecture critic, Toronto Star journalist Christopher Hume’s attitude towards residential design may come across as counter intuitive.
“I think most condos should be background buildings,” says Hume, who has been writing about architecture for Canada’s highest-circulation newspaper since 1987.
But wouldn’t Hume, who looks for beauty in the urban landscape, want there to be more striking buildings rising up in glorious clusters across the 416? “Not everyone needs to be the soloist, you know,” he says. “You need to have the choir singing in tune as well as the soloist.”
Nevertheless, when residential developers do get design right, Hume takes note.
So BuzzBuzzHome News caught up with the veteran newspaperman and urbanist to ask about his favourite condo projects, architecturally speaking, whether they’re still on the drawing board, completed in 2015, or anything in between.
The Well by RioCan, DiamondCorp, and Allied Properties
“I like the way that it seems to get away from the monolithic quality that a lot of condos have and tries to sort of introduce a little bit of complexity to the site,” says Hume of The Well.
“Most architects are terrified of complexity and yet that’s one of the things we love most about the city and I think this is a rare project that actually embraces it, so I admire it for that reason.”
“The one that Frank Gehry is doing for David Mirvish, I’m excited about that,” says Hume. “I like its boldness, I like the fact that it wants to be an icon, it wants to be a destination, it wants to engage people — it wants to all those things in a big, bold way and I really admire that, and I think Toronto needs more of that kind of stuff.”
When judging the success of a building’s design, Hume tries to look at how well it fits in with its neighbours. In this respect, Riverside Square scores high.
“It’s successful, in my opinion, because it enables the neighbourhood to continue to be the neighbourhood,” says Hume, who complimented its terrace and streetscape retail.
“It doesn’t interrupt the flow of things, it wants to be a part of it. And I think that’s the right thing to do,” says Hume. “It’s not too tall [and] it’s kind of fitted into an awkward site, but that sort of makes the best of it and civilizes it somewhat.”
“I like the Daniel Libeskind one, except for the cladding, that blue cladding,” says Hume, referring to the Polish-American starchitect’s The L Tower, a 58-storey curvilinear condo development near Yonge and Front streets.
Exterior treatments aside, Hume is impressed. “I think it’s the most distinctive new building in the city and I kind of admire that it stands out on the skyline.”
At its apex, Pier 27, a new waterfront community capped off by the Pier 27 Tower, reaches a height of 35 storeys, which leads to one of the project’s standout points, in Hume’s eyes. “I think it’s an interesting exploration of a different way to bring density to a project without going high,” he says.
“You know, Torontonians are very fidgety when buildings get too tall, especially on the waterfront. I think there was a pressure to keep the buildings short,” he explains. “I don’t think it’s entirely successful, but I think it’s interesting.”