Toronto Architectural Façadism: A Controversial Necessity of 2016
Toronto, Ontario – 24th October, 2016 : The rise of façadism in Toronto has been a controversial topic in 2016, especially with the construction of the EY Tower featuring a façade of the famous Concourse Building.
To better understand local trends influencing architecture and design in Toronto, BluEnt has delved into the debate surrounding heritage façadism.
The Reasoning Behind Façadism
Toronto’s rich architectural history combined with its economic development have made it a fertile ground for façadism.
It’s a natural way for local heritage conservationists and architects to work together in creating a city that meets future needs while honoring past creations.
In an article in Now Toronto, Michael Emory, president of Allied Reit, says that heritage preservation strategies such as façadism can be credited to “a growing interest in architecture old and new in an increasingly dense, walkable, bikeable and, because it’s less driveable, slower city. Forced to look more closely at our streetscapes, we become more aware of our surroundings and more demanding of excellence in neighbourhoods that are rich in architecture of all ages.”
Arguments Against Façadism
Critics of façadism have complained that it has led to architecture design lacking in richness. They argue that architects have used the technique to hide generic, uninspired designs behind the face of heritage architecture. This results in structures that celebrate neither historic nor contemporary architectural feats.
There are many cases of façadism being used to preserve the first layer of a structure and build high-rise condominiums above them. Many such buildings create an imbalance between the new and old eras of architecture. They urge architects to pay more attention to crafting meaningful intersections between the two.
Regarding the controversial One Bedford condominium on Bloor St. that incorporated the heritage façade of the 1921 studio that preceded its construction, Dave LeBlanc from the Globe and Mail stated:
“…what annoys me most is that Mr. Brown’s façade is set so deep into the shadows behind the new building’s massive columns it looks bullied, small and sad. And although the octagonal lobby with original plasterwork and terrazzo floors has been retained, I just can’t get past… how the façade just hangs there, suspended in a blank concrete wall.”
The Future of Façadism
Despite the backlash, it’s most likely that façadism isn’t going anywhere when it comes to architecture and design in Toronto.
It is the most efficient technique of heritage conservation for a city of such rapid growth. One of Toronto’s most talked-about architectural developments in recent months has been the 40-story Kohn Pedersen Fox-designed Ernst & Young Tower. It features a replicated heritage façade of the famous 1928-built Concourse Building, which was demolished in 2013.
Heritage conservation requires more thoughtful, purposeful architectural design. Toronto must decide on what elements of history to preserve, and how to marry these elements with those of the city’s future.
Furthermore, heritage conservation services must develop new tools and systems for effective excavation, demolition and reconstruction of buildings of varying complexity and structural integrity.
Downtown Yonge Street and Queen Street are the next two areas that will be under the spotlight for heritage preservation, and as major city landmarks, Toronto cannot afford to miss the mark.
With local offices in the heart of downtown Toronto, BluEnt Canada is in an advantageous position to work closely with local trends while taking advanta