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Photos: James Bombales

Project: King Toronto Condos
Builder(s): Westbank and Allied Properties
Architect(s): BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group and Diamond + Schmitt Architects Inc.

A new mountain range is set to rise in the heart of downtown Toronto as construction at King Toronto Condos ramps up. The mixed-use development by Westbank and Allied Properties features a series of ‘mountains’ up to 16-storeys high that stretch from 485 King Street West to 539 King Street West. The unique concept is the vision of internationally-renowned starchitect Bjarke Ingels and was inspired by Montreal’s iconic Habitat 67 residence, designed by another well-known architect, Moshe Safdie.

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The 600,000-square-foot community strays away from the typical tower and podium design that has become the standard in Toronto. Dramatic renderings show stepped, terraced apartments with glass-brick facades that rise above several restored heritage buildings fronting King Street West. Extensive greenery and vertical gardens add to the mountain range feel, while landscaped courtyards and pathways are enlivened with public art.

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”We asked ourselves if we could imagine an urban integrated equivalent of Safdie’s Habitat 67, half a century later,” said Bjarke Ingels, Principal at BIG, in an interview with Architectural Digest. “In this revision, the street wall is broken and rotated. The monolithic volume of the tower-on-podium is chipped away to create an undulating landscape of terraces. And at every shift, an urban garden is created.”

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The project is expected to be completed in the summer of 2023 so it’ll be awhile before we see it come to life, but recent photos show that construction is progressing well.

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Now fenced up, the site is full of heavy machinery and rubble as crews continue to demolish sections of existing buildings and their foundations. Much of the activity, at this point, is focused behind the row of brick heritage properties that will be restored and incorporated into the design.

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Torontonians may recognize the site as the former home to Bjarke Ingels’ famous Unzipped Serpentine Pavilion in 2018. The temporary exhibit was made of 1,802 stacked fiberglass boxes representing an ‘unzipped’ wall that formed a cavern where visitors could view scale models and learn about other projects and collaborations that BIG has worked on around the world.

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