The Toronto Urban Design Awards that were handed out Sept. 11 had, for the most part, one thing in common: You wouldn’t notice a single one of the winners if it were built in Shanghai or Doha.
"The buildings looked like good urban buildings this year that won awards," says James N. Parakh, the city’s acting director of urban design. "They weren’t buildings that won for architectural exuberance."
Parakh, a former architect who did work in Shanghai and Abu Dhabi with WZMH Architects
, says Toronto excels where those more glamorous cities fail.
"The mayors of those cities are starting to realize that if you’re talking about the aesthetics of a skyline, one landmark building is great, two, if strategically placed, can also be great. But if every building is a landmark, it just looks unsophisticated, cluttered."
Parakh's personal favourite among this year's winners is the not unexuberant Shangri-La Hotel. He likes it for the way it sits on its site, the way it incorporates its public art
, and the way you can experience the city's urbanity from inside. (On the downside, the building was picked out specifically in a 2012 New York Times piece
for its role in the city's bird deaths.)
The Brick Works is another winner he points out., "It's very much a people place," he says, "and contributes to its context. It’s more than just a collection of buildings. It's something that works in conjunction with its events program and has created a new focal point for the community."
This year's jury members were KPMB founder Marianne McKenna, Sturgess Architecture principal Jeremy Sturgess, University of Guelph landscape architecture professor Cecelia Paine, Urban Strategies Partner Eric Turcotte, and Spacing publisher and creative director Matthew Blackett.
Other winners include the Mt Dennis Library
, the 11 Division police headquarters
condos and, with an award of merit, the Linea Bayview Townhomes by Symmetry Developments.
Writer: Bert Archer
Source: James Parakh