Only a few days after BIG’s snaking Serpentine Pavilion was fully installed in Toronto, King Street West, the stacked housing development sited directly behind the pavilion, received official approval and is set to begin sales shortly.
The full-block King Street West, developed by BIG’s frequent Canadian collaborators Westbank (also the owner of the aforementioned pavilion), was reportedly inspired in both form and spirit by Moshe Safdie’s experimental Habitat 67 in Montreal. Similar to the adjacent pavilion, the 750,000-square-foot project will rise in stepped, stacked boxes and invoke a pixelated effect—an effect that extends even to the cladding, thanks to the glass bricks that will be used for the facade.
Each concrete cube has been extruded and set back to terrace space and open up lighting for residents, as well as give each unit its own unique identity. Much like Habitat 67 or BIG’s own “self-contained neighborhood,” the 8 House in Copenhagen, the aim was to lend each unit the feeling of being its own standalone home.
“With King Street West, we wanted to find an alternative to the tower and podium you see a lot of in Toronto and revisit some of Safdie’s revolutionary ideas,” said Bjarke Ingels in a press release, “but rather than a utopian experiment on an island, have it nested into the heart of the city. It would be strange if one of the most diverse cities in the world had the most homogenous architecture.”
King Street West will incorporate the site’s existing century-old brick buildings and convert them into a mix of office and retail space. The peaks-and-valleys approach BIG took to the development’s massing extends to the underside, as the building rises like the entrance to a cavern at the bottom, opening up to what BIG has described as a “maze-like” courtyard within. The “mountainous” portions of the project will frame the interior landscaping at ground-level, which comes courtesy of the Toronto-based landscape architects Public Work.
The project had been under consideration by the Toronto city government for the last two-and-a-half years, as the King West neighborhood is the meeting point of Toronto’s downtown skyscrapers and shorter brick buildings. Several converted factories and warehouses sit on the same block as King Street West, and the development was approved only after BIG was able to scale its “village” down to a contextual size.
No estimated completion date for King Street West has been announced yet.