More details and design refinements revealed for Frank Gehry’s twin Toronto supertalls

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More details and design refinements revealed for Frank Gehry’s twin Toronto supertalls

New adjustments to the forever-changing project include podium enhancements and the reveal of a stainless steel and glass curtain wall facade. (Sora/Courtesy Gehry Partners)

A local development team of Great Gulf, Westdale Properties, and Dream Unlimited has revealed the latest refinements to Frank Gehry’s frequently morphing, years-in-the-making twin tower project set to rise at the intersection of King Street West and Ed Mirvish Way in downtown Toronto’s Entertainment District. In its current iteration, the western tower will be the tallest Gehry-designed building in the world at just over 1,000 feet tall. The eastern tower, anything but puny at 874 feet, will be just slightly lankier than Gehry’s 8 Spruce Street in Manhattan, which was the tallest residential tower in the Western Hemisphere upon completion in 2011.

The developers first publicly presented the major new design changes at a February 9 community meeting organized by the City of Toronto. Gehry—a Toronto native—and members of the project team from his eponymous Los Angeles-based architecture firm were also virtually on-hand for the big reveal.

Formed by a sky-brushing series of stacked vertical volumes that have been likened to a certain culinary tool, the towers are being touted as truly mixed-use buildings with plans to include residential, retail, commercial office space, and potentially a hotel as well as new space for Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) University within the altitudinous development.

“OCAD University is excited about the Gehry-designed project, which will offer our students and faculty enhanced learning and research spaces while providing opportunities to collaborate with the community on a wide variety of art, design and media initiatives,” said Ana Serrano, the University’s president and vice-chancellor, in a statement.

renderings of two skyscrapers and the toronto skyline
Locals have likened the design of the supertalls to colossal cheese graters. (Sora/Courtesy Gehry Partners)

As for the refinements, they maintain the height and density requirements approved in a 2017 zoning by-law amendment while adjusting the organization of the towers at the development site, enhancing the respective podiums of both towers, and optimizing the building’s floor plates to “to offer stunning views from each vantage point in the buildings,” according to a joint press announcement released by the developers.

Most substantially, the refinement-reveal showcased a newly envisioned building envelope for the project that will include a “variety of energy-efficient materials” and feature a shiny, textural metal and glass facade. As for the aforementioned tweaks to the podiums, this element will include incorporating the historic facade of the 1915 Anderson Building, a five-story heritage structure at 284 King Street West. Refinements to the podiums will also free up views of two existing buildings—the Royal Alexandra Theatre and the Princess of Wales Theatre—bookending the Gehry project. Early versions of the development involved demolishing the latter theatre, although that outrage-stirring idea was ultimately nixed.

“With this project, I wanted to create an ensemble of buildings that were respectful to the city and referential to the Toronto that I once knew,” said Gehry. “I wanted the two towers to each have their own personality, but I also wanted them to talk to each other, creating a dynamic and changing addition to the skyline depending where you were viewing them from in the city. The detailing of the exterior is intended to give the buildings a human scale and hopefully reflect the light and colour from the city and the sky around it. In the end, this should be a building of Toronto that I hope will make the city proud.”

Per the developers, the boxy, metallic towers will anchor an intersection that will serve as “Toronto’s centre for arts, culture and theatre.”

renderings of two skyscrapers and the toronto skyline designed by frank gehry
The Entertainment District development will be Gehry’s largest and tallest hometown project. (Sora/Courtesy Gehry Partners)

According to the development team, the new batch of updates include variances reflective of changes to the massing and design intent for the project, which will be brought to the Committee of Adjustment for approval. As noted in the press release, a package was submitted to the City of Toronto last December for review.

The roughly 2-million-square-foot project has changed dramatically since an initial, audacious design concept (“sculptural and eccentric—sketches, rather than realistic high-rise architecture,” as noted by the Globe & Mail’s Alex Bozikovik) was first introduced nearly a decade ago by Gehry, who turns 92 later this month, in partnership with art dealer and real estate developer David Mirvish, who also operates the Entertainment District theaters and other theatrical venues in Toronto. In 2014, a viable design was approved by the city and four years later the most recent version of the development—the one that has undergone a new round of design refinements—was publicly introduced. Along the way, the project changed ownership from Mirvish to the current development team.

As relayed by the developers to the Globe & Mail, sales for the towers’ condo units are set to kick off next year.