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Contract awarded for Milton District Hospital expansion

An international infrastructure company specializing in public-private partnerships has been awarded the contract to design, build, finance and maintain the expansion of the Milton District Hospital.
Plenary Health, which has built has several other health facilities in Canada, including the Archives of Ontario, the Humber River Hospital and Bridgepoint Hospital, expects the $512-million project to be completed in spring 2017. The expansion will add 330,000 square feet of space to the existing 125,000-square-foot hospital.
The developer has committed to target a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) Silver certification rating. Nancy Kuyumcu, a communications advisor with Infrastructure Ontario, couldn’t give details on how the Plenary Health would meet LEED criteria, which is typical done through construction innovations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and use energy, water and other resources more efficiently. RTKL and B+H are working together as architects on the project.
The project will expand emergency and surgical services, medical/surgical inpatient units, critical care, maternal newborn and diagnostic imaging and support services, increase impatient bed capacity from 63 to and provide the hospital with its first Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine, says Kuyumcu.
Plenary Health is a division of Plenary Group, which has roots in Australia.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Nancy Kuyumcu

Midtown plan wins national award as "model for other cities"

A plan that would entrench, expand and entwine midtown’s green spaces has won recognition from the body that governs those who design the nation’s outdoor spaces.

The Canadian Society of Landscape Architects (CSLA), which counts 1,900 of the country’s approximately 2,000 landscape architects as its members, named it one of the best pieces of work in the country, excelling in craft, leadership, project management, innovation, as well as environmental and social awareness.

The plan, developed by a team that included landscape architects Public Work and infrastructure consultants Parsons Brinckerhoff, identifies five potential green space continuums which the team describes as “large scale public space proposals that bring together changes in the design of parks, streets and open space.” The include a long stretch of green along Yonge Street on either side of Eglinton, anoher along Eglinton itself, the transformation of Broadway, Montgomery, Roehampton and Orchard View “into a lush, green, multi-purpose promenade,” and a “re-imagined” Redpath Avenue to be bookended by “two great parks.”

“This is a project that was given an award for planning and analysis,” says CSLA executive director Michelle Legault. “Many landscape architects consult, and they develop plans for cities. This one developed with the City of Toronto, a blueprint that will help guide the evolution of the public spaces and public realm in midtown.

“Essentially what we’re saying is that this is a really high-level, highly efficient, extremely innovative plan. It’s a model for other plans for other cities.”

Plans are just plans until they are executed, of course, but this one, approved by council in its Aug. 25 session, is meant to be executed over a period of two to three decades.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Michelle Legault

The future of work: The food court

Have you ever thought of working in a food court?

John White at WZMH Architects thinks you should, and suggests if you haven't, you may already be behind the curve.

“One of the interesting things that we found in designing Waterpark Place is that the food courts are taking on a new identity,” he says, referring to the 30-storey RBC-branded building just south of Queens Quay that officially opened in December. It's the southernmost point in the underground PATH system, and also features a 627-seat food court, designed by WZMH.

White says that RBC, along with other large firms such as Deloitte, have started operating their offices using something called hotelling. The idea is that instead of having your own office, cubicle or desk, you reserve one, per your needs, each morning, whatever you need to keep at the office relegated to an assigned drawer.

“It is no longer a fixed-seat concept,” White says. “The food court is becoming the fixed seat.”

But even without hotelling, and the office downsizing that's prompted it -- seeing per-worker office space reduced from an average of 150 square feet, according to White, down to 100 – you might already have noticed the shift. That is, serious people interviewing other serious people for serious jobs in public, and professionals meeting in surroundings that afford a good deal less formality – and possibly even more security – than is possible in an office.

To cater to this, WZMH has designed its Waterpark food court with three themes.

“Lounge seating has a living room feel,” he says, “like the high-end waiting area of an office. Business casual has tables scattered around that can be collected into boardroom-sized surface. Urban is more communal table seating.”

They've also incorporated two skylights to provide the sort of atmosphere conducive to long-term sitting.

According to White, the food court vendors are onside with the new dynamic, figuring what they lose in turnover, they gain in larger groups.

White sees this conscious food court design as the beginning of an inevitable trend that will involve the entire PATH system realizing that it's no longer catering to an office-bound, or even 9-5 world.

“More than transitory spaces you move through,” he says, “these are spaces you will inhabit.”

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: John White

This weekend, U of T will change the way we think about cities

This weekend, a three-day symposium at the University of Toronto's school of architecture has set itself the task of redefining the way city's are conceived.

Michael Piper, an assistant professor and the organizer of the After Empirical Urbanism symposium, defined one core challenge as an explosion of the concept of urbanism.

The term “urbanism” started out, he said, comprising just city planning, urban design and architecture.

“But in the mid 1970s, for various reasons, the field began to expand,” he said, “into ethnology, anthropology, data analysis. It's become very complex, loaded with a series of other things, instead of just studying the physical space of cities, you'll study the people who live there and their cultural backgrounds. This is all very good, but with all this observing and civic engagement is that we've lost the idea of how to design. So what we're going is try to take all these empirical practices and how to make them operative and more design sensitive.”

The symposium, which is open to the public, has invited people from these many different disciplines and practises, who usually hive off into conferences of their own, to discuss how the future of thinking about cities might incorporate all their areas of expertise without losing track of the basic responsibility of urbanists, which is to make cities, rather than merely analyze them.

Piper says that in the 1970s urbanists, inspired by thinkers like Le Corbusier, began overhauling cities in ways they had not been overhauled since Hausmann re-did Paris. The result was much brutalist concrete and housing projects that have since been deemed disasters both by urbanists and the general public. He gives as an especially egregious example the Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St Louis, Missouri, built in 1954 and demolished as early as 1972, but Chicago's Cabrini-Green or Toronto's own Regent Park would serve as well.

Urbanists were ambitious and optimistic in those decades, thinking that their ideas were better than ones that had come before, and willing to sacrifice heritage and history on the altar of the new and Modernist.

“These practices have come from the failure of modernism,” Piper says, referring to the disparate state of contemporary urbanism. “We can't design the whole city, so let's just look at it. What we're saying is you can't design a city like the Modernists tried to, but it does not mean we can't attempt to think on a large scale or to think through design.”

Talks and presentations over the three days, from Feb. 27 to March 1 at 230 College Street, include “The Use and Misuse of History,” “Fictions of the Ordinary,” and “The Bias of Data.”

Entry is free.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Michael Piper


Freed condos teams up with Karl Lagerfeld

Peter Freed's long been known as a design-friendly developer. His King West-area developments, like 66 Portland and the Thompson Hotel, played a large part in making the neighbourhood what it is. The relatively young developer was also, at least in the beginning, known to cater to a youthful demographic, but with his latest project, the now 46-year-old Forest Hill-raised developer moved uptown and raised the age his sights are set on.

Art Shoppe Lofts and Condos is not only slotted for Yonge and Eglinton, it's also going to be a partnership with the 81-year-old Karl Lagerfeld.

“We have always sought to find ways to partner in our developments with some of the great design minds of our generation, and share their style,” Freed wrote in a press release announcing the partnership. ‘We look forward to sharing Karl Lagerfeld’s distinctively ultramodern, highly structured style for the Art Shoppe Lofts + Condos and believe that his premier Canadian condominium design will create spaces that will be valued by our residents, treasured by our City, and appreciated by the world.”

Freed has long been known as more of a partner than a developer. Though his name has accrued considerably brand value, and tend to play big in the announcements and hoardings, the projects have largely been done by others. In this case, in addition to Lagerfeld's contributions to the design of the lobby, CD Capital Investments is the money behind the man. It's not the first time he's partnered with a name designer either. His condo building at 75 Portland included ideas from Philippe Starck.

According to CD Capital's co-founder and managing partner Todd Cowan, Lagerfeld will be in charge of the interiors of the lobbies, and will be attending the opening when the buildings are scheduled to finished in 2019.

Planned for 2131 Yonge, the projects is intended to consist of a 28- and a 12-storey tower, with the largest units limited to two bedrooms.

Unlike Ridpath's, Toronto's other grand old furniture store, the Art Shoppe is not shutting down, at least not yet. They moved in December to 71 Kincort Street near Castlefield and Caledonia.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Todd Cowan


Smart House takes possession of its site on Queen

According to the developer, things are finally going to get moving on the Smart House condos.

According to Brenda Hamilton, Malibu Investment’s assistant marketing manager, they finally took possession of the site — a parking lot one door west of University on Queen — this week.

Designed by Architects Alliance, with interiors by II By IV, the idea behind Smart House is to offer affordably tiny condos in the heart of downtown.

Starting at under 300 square feet and topping out at less than 800, though it’s not the first to offer small units, Smart House is the first development to make a virtue out of its confined spaces.

The idea is that, at Queen and University, you don’t actually need that much room with the city and all its amenities laid out at your doorstep: restaurants instead of kitchen space, parks instead of lounging area. Though they probably wouldn’t use the tagline themselves, the concept is that you sleep in the condo, but you live in the city.

Hamilton says construction is likely to start in the next couple of weeks.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Brenda Hamilton

First step in Massey Tower complete this week

The caisson is in for one of the more remarkable condos going up at the moment.

Massey Tower, the 60-storey Hariri-Pontarini condo being built on top of the old Bank of Commerce building at 197 Yonge, will be a big curvacious white spike built on toughly the same footprint as the tiny old bank.

The one-storey addition on the back of the bank was demolished, and behind the old masonry facades, Tucker Hi-Rise has its construction offices, which this week oversaw the completion of the installation of the waterproof retaining structure known as a caisson, constructed out of piles driven deep into the ground around a concrete base.

According to Gary Switzer, CEO of MOD Developments, “The biggest challenges are the tightness of the site, the limited site access and the care that has to be taken when building next to heritage buildings on all sides.”

MOD is the firm behind the equally noteworthy Five St. Joseph a kilometre or so up Yonge.

If all goes well, Switzer estimates the tower should be ready for occupants in a little over three years.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Gary Switzer

Newly renamed ferry terminal to get new design

If you live in Toronto and have spent any time at all around the waterfront, you will almost certainly have been asked by a tourist at least once to direct them to the ferry terminal. Unless you already know where it is, is can be difficult to find from the street.

That is, no doubt, one of the issues that is being tackled by the entrants for the design competition, run by Waterfront Toronto, to comprehensively redesign not only the ferry terminal, but the 4.6 hectares of public space surrounding it on both sides, from the east side of Yonge Slip to the east side of York Slip, which includes the area around the Westin Harbour Castle and Harbour Square Park.

“The intent is that the designers have an opportunity to think of the space holistically in order to come up with a vision for that area,” says Waterfront spokeswoman Samantha Gileno, “and then we can look at creating a master plan so we can start prioritizing and funding the revitalization for the area.”

The first phase of the competition, the Request for Quotation (RFQ) closed on Friday, and Waterfront expects to release a shortlist of up to five by the end of the month. There will be a public consultation in the form of an exhibit of the proposals in March. The exhibit will also go online to ensure as much public participation as possible. Taking public opinion into effect, a jury will then select one design, at which point funding and timelines will be set.

“Sugar Beach came from the Jarvis Slip competition,” Gileno says, “and the mouth of the Don was also a design competition. Until the competitions were held, we couldn’t envision what might come out of it. You get so many great, innovative ideas flowing through these competitions.”

The ferry terminal, which was renamed after Jack Layton in August, 2013, is the city’s chief entryway to the Toronto islands.

“I think we all agree that this is a really important waterfront gateway, a site that in some ways isn't as accessible, prominent and beautiful as it deserves to be,” Gileno says. “I think it’s just time we rethink this.”

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Samantha Gileno


Her Majesty's Pleasure rethinks salon concept

You’ll be forgiven for not knowing quite what you’re passing when you pass Her Majesty’s Pleasure on King at Portland at the bottom of the just-occupied Freed Fashion House condo.

Technically, it’s a salon. But from the street, it looks like an especially well designed cafe, the sort we’ve tried to have around these parts, the sort the Marilyn Monroe Cafe tried briefly to be. And it’s that, too. It’s also a bar.

“We noticed, in the first week, it was interesting how people discovered the place,” says John Tong, the designer behind the project. “If it was just a beauty salon, people would just walk by. Because we put the cafe and bar up front, people saw that, came in, saw the display case, saw the croissants, walked a little bit farther back, saw some retail, and then you look through the glass screen between the bar and salon and you see: 'Oh my gosh you’re in a beauty salon.'”

The idea behind the place came from the owners, architecture student Sara Kardan and former investment banker Jeff Armstrong.

Tong, who designed Civello’s on Queen Street some years ago with a tea bar in the back, sees this as the logical extension of the concept.

“In the process of mapping out the customer engagement, it turned itself inside out. We fronted it with a cafe and bar, with reception midway through the journey through the place at a retail intersection before ever seeing any services,” he says. “We really brought people’s attention to the idea that these services are the backdrop to social interaction.”

Tong describes the aesthetic as a balance between masculine and feminine, the better to draw in a larger crowd than would generally find itself in a salon, and to cater to the male companion of she who is about to be primped.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: John Tong

R.C. Harris, Village by High Park win masonry awards

Masonry may sound a little old fashioned, a description of the way buildings were built before we learned how to use steel and glass to such tepid effect.

But every four years, we are reminded of the fact that masonry didn’t disappear with the advent of the International Style, it just went underground, or beneath the surface, anyway.

“The component in most buildings that is load-bearing is masonry,” says Sandra Skivsky, the spokeswoman-of-few-words for the Ontario Masonry Contractor’s Association.

Getting her to speak about the quadrennial Ontario Masonry Design Awards, which took place Nov. 15, was like playing an especially unsuccessful game of Atari Breakout, ponging away brick by brick to try and get at the value of masonry in Toronto’s booming building market.

For the uninitiated, masonry is any sort of building material put together with mortar. In the past, this was largely bricks. Today, it’s mostly cinder block, which tend to form the infrastruture behind veneers of brick, stone or other, more attractive material.

A quick look through this year’s winners, which cover projects since 2010, offers a glimpse into the range of masonry work being done in the GTA.

The Village by High Park, built for Options for Homes by Burka Architects, with masonry done by the Gottardo Group, won for best use of masonry in the residential high-rise category, Ireland Park for commemorative design, and the R.C. Harris water treatment plant for restoration.

“What we look at is the aesthetics, the volume if masonry that’s in a project, and the workmanship,” Skivsky said, and then was silent.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Sandra Skivsky

BMO renovations finally ready for their big reveal

Branch No. 1 of the Bank of Montreal, at the bottom of First Canadian Place, is nearing completion of its first renovation since 1979.

“The whole branch was renovated to showcase our new retail design standards and reflect the bank's new branding strategy,” says BMO spokesman Ralph Marranca. 

Designed by Figure 3 and Kearns Mancini Architects, the renovation will set the standard for a roll-out of similar renovations across the country when it’s completed in December.

The re-design follows the years-long re-cladding of the entire tower, Toronto’s tallest commercial building, replacing its eroding (and occasionally falling) exterior marble panels with fritted glass at a cost of $100 million.That project was led by Moed de Armas & Shannon Architects and Bregman and Hamann Architects in 1975, on the site of the Old Toronto Star building and Old Globe and Mail building.

At the time of its construction, the tower was the sixth tallest building in the world. While it's fallen considerably from those ranks (recent estimates put it around 95th place, though that might be generous), this renovation aims to bring the tower up to snuff in terms of modern design. As someone wise probably once said, size isn't everything. 

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Ralph Marranca


Public meeting debates Centennial Park's coming BMX track

There was a priest at my college, Fr. Findlay, who once told me, a wry grin on his face: “All change is from the devil.”

It’s not an unpopular sentiment in Toronto, it seems.

The latest instance of it came at a recent public meeting on the subject of the new BMX tracks already being put up in Etobicoke’s Centennial Park. Part of the PanAm/Parapan Games, the tracks will be available for use by the public once the games are done.

The public meeting was meant to be informational rather than consultational; construction on the project is already under way. But the 15 to 20 people who showed up were still grumpy.

“It was largely attended by those folks who were never so supportive of the project from the outset, including the former councillor Doug Holyday,” says Catherine Meade, director of the PanAm/Parapan Games capital project.

In addition to concerns about the park’s environmental impact (though the project passed the usual environmental assessment process and got approval from the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority), and the difference between the initial cost estimates and the final budget (the initial budget was for a temporary track built in a parking lot; the final project is for one that will last for several decades), people at the meeting were also worried about the increase in the use of the park that the tracks might inspire.

Others, perhaps among those who did not attend, may think more people using the city’s parks could be a good thing.

The presentation of the work that’s been done — work started at the end of August — and what’s yet to happen was made by architect Roman Mychajlowycz, principal at KMA Architects. Brendan Arnold, the Ontario Cycling Association’s BMX development coach, spoke about the impact of building tracks like this on the sport in the province, including the OCA’s plans to use it themselves for training.

The facility, which will include two tracks, one with a 5-metre ramp open to the public, and one with an 8-metre ramp meant for training and professional use, will be finished by spring.

The PanAm/ParaPan Games are being held in the GTA July 10-26 and Aug. 7-15, 2015.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Catherine Meade

There's an appetite for urban living in Burlington

There may be something to this urban design and density trend.

As Toronto’s core intensifies by the day and condos, rather than single family dwellings, become the norm, it seems the thinking behind it is leaking outwards.

Like Markham and Vaughan before them, Burlington is now showing signs of urbanization.

Link, a four-building, two-phase development by the young Adi Development Group, has just launched its second two buildings, set for construction next spring on the edge of Bronte Creek on Dundas Street.

“We took that urban movement that was happening in Toronto and plopped it down in Burlington,” says Tariq Adi, who runs Adi Development with his brother, Saud. “It was a huge success," he says, referring to their first such project, Mod'rn. "Link was a little bit more of a departure, we used RAW Design and Roland Rom Colthoff. We instructed him to do something different.”

When completed in early 2017, the four buildings will be linked by lit bridges made of glass and structural steel. The informing metaphor for the project, according to Adi, is connection: buildings to nature, people to their homes, and people to other people.

“There’s a paradigm shift happening in Burlington,” Adi says, referring to things like Money Sense magazine finding Burlington the most livable mid-sized city in the country in 2013, and stats that put Burlington’s per capita income among the highest in Canada. “It’s a very educated, well informed crowd.”

Link 2, as it’s being called, will feature two-storey lofts with 18-foot ceilings, ranging from 852 to 1,650 square feet, with prices starting at $352,000. Smaller, single-storey, one-bedroom units will start at $190,000, with other units featuring family-friendly three and even four bedrooms starting at under half a million.

In addition to its urban-style density and aesthetic, Link will be close to public transportation. There’s a bus stop in front of the site now, with a new Metrolinx Bus Rapid Transit station slated for 20 metres from the site, and a GO station about 10 minutes away. It’s also about 300 metres from highway 407.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Tariq Adi

Moving on up: Community college gets a residence

Ground broke last week on a new residence that will form the gateway to Centennial College's Scarborough campus.

Designed by Donald Schmitt, principal with Diamond Schmitt Architects, the new building will house 740 beds, a rooftop conference centre, and a glass-walled culinary school and restaurant on the ground floor. It will double the height of the current tallest building on campus, a library also designed by Diamond Schmitt.

"It will be the first building you see as you approach the campus," Schmitt says, "and it's designed specifically to be the landmark that defines the entry. It will be eight storeys in height, so it will be seen from the 401, and it will give the college quite a bit of presence."

Though the facade and materials will not match the library, Schmitt says the massing and configuration will complement the earlier building.

"We're trying to articulate each of the parts of the building," he says, "with a high level of transparency in the culinary areas, and on every floor of the residences there are these enormous lounges that are all clad in glass, so there will be huge bay windows that project on every level on all four facades."

One of the more novel aspects of the building has less to do with how it was designed than how came together. It's a partnership between Centennial and Knightstone Capital Management, who are the developers and will be managing the building once it's complete. (As Schmitt points out, though government funding is available for academic buildings, academic institutions have to come up with their own schemes for residences.)

Schmitt estimates the 353,500 square foot building, for which Knightstone will be seeking LEED Silver certification, will be ready for students by September, 2016.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Donald Schmitt

Landscape architects to discuss master plan for Toronto's ravines

Toronto's ravines take up 10 times the amount of acreage of Manhattan's entire park system. And given that Manhattan and Toronto have roughly the same daytime population - about 3 million — we have a lot of grass to frolic in.

But the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority doesn't think we're taking full advantage of this aspect of the urban ecosystem.

"We have all these wonderful ravines running through our city and a lot of people don't know they're there," says Steven Heuchert, the TRCA's senior manager of planning and development.

Though he thinks the city's done "a pretty good job" of keeping the system reasonably natural, Heuchert thinks the next step is incorporation the ravines into the city, and the city into the ravines.

"For example, a lot of entrances to these ravines are nothing more than a little pathway put there to accommodate some sort of infrastructure," he says. "There may be a pipe there and maintenance people need to get in to work on the pipe, but we don't make these things generally accessible to the public."

Heuchert gave a talk on Oct. 9, hosted by the TRCA, on his thoughts about where the ravines have come from, and where they ought to be going to. It was part of a series of talks in the Ravine Portal exhibition that will be continued tomorrow night by the landscape architects of the Lower Don Master Plan, which Heuchert says puts into practice on a relatively small scale the ideas he thinks should be extended to the entire ravine system.

"The Lower Don Master Plan and the work that Evergreen is doing to try to connect their site into the city a little better are good examples of what I was speaking to in my presentation," Heuchert says, "looking at design solutions to make people recognize that the ravines are there, getting them in in a co-ordinated fashion."

Tomorrow's talk, titled "Possible Futures," will include Seana Irvine, Chief Operating Officer of Evergreen, with Bryce Miranda and Brent Raymond, landscape architects and partners at DTAH.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Steven Heuchert
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