Can one of the world’s oldest building materials form the foundation of a sensor-integrated “smart” neighborhood? Alphabet subsidiary Sidewalk Labs is making a go of it on the Toronto waterfront, and has enlisted wood advocates and Katerra partner Michael Green Architecture (MGA) to design flexible, mixed-use timber buildings for its 3-million-square-foot Quayside project.
If the 12-acre site is developed as planned, it would become the largest timber project in the world.
The ground-up development in Quayside is leaning on mass timber because Sidewalk Labs has touted the material as sustainable and as tough as steel, as well as because cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels work well in prefabricated structures. MGA has designed a kit-of-parts that can be used for buildings of every scale, and Sidewalk Labs is reportedly looking at constructing a collection of 12 mass timber towers, with the tallest topping out at 30 stories.
Sidewalk Labs is aiming to build within Quayside’s existing zoning, which would entail 90 percent residential development.
The neighborhood will encourage street-level interaction through a combination of design and environmental control. MGA has anchored the base of each building with a “stoa,” or an open-air covered walkway supported by a colonnade (in this case, V-shaped heavy timber columns) that will contain retail and communal gathering places.
Of course, Toronto’s winters are especially punishing, and doubly so on the waterfront. Sidewalk Labs tapped the architecture studio PARTISANS to design an “outdoor comfort toolkit,” including a computer-controlled retractable canopy that will clad the stoas. The umbrella-like structures will block out wind, rain, and snow while heated pavers will keep snow off of the streets; the company claims that both advancements will double the amount of time residents will be able to spend outdoors.
Beyer Blinder Belle is responsible for the site’s master plan and Toronto-based PUBLIC WORK will be designing the landscape. Sidewalk Labs also reached out to the Ontario-based gh3*, Toronto’s Teeple Architects, and Toronto-based Dubbeldam Architecture + Design to create residential unit concepts. Sidewalk Labs will submit its final Master Innovation and Development Plan for public comment sometime this spring.