Architects and building designers beware, renowned architecture critic and veteran journalist Christopher Hume is reviving his condo critiques, exclusively for

90 NiagaraDeveloper: Fieldgate HomesArchitect: Giannone PetriconeCompletion: 2019Address: 90 Niagara St.

Grade: B

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Ninety Niagara is one of those strange projects that should look better than it does. At five storeys, it’s not too high to fit into the neighbourhood, but still it doesn’t quite feel a part of things. The obvious reason is the lack of landscaping. Though there’s precious little space, one can only assume the condo is too recently finished for the builders to have installed the greenery that will soften the front edges of this otherwise decent addition to the lower west side of the downtown core.

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The city's over-loaded utility pole on one side of the main entrance doesn’t help. Neither does the gas metre on the other side the front door. These unfortunate features are reminders that details matter – a lot. They also demonstrate how even the most earnest architectural effort can be undone by this sort of carelessness. On the other hand, if and when these missteps are taken care of, the new structure will be able to come out from behind the veil of ugliness to enhance Niagara.

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Designed by Giannone Petricone, the building is made up of several elements; a steel-clad top section sits atop two storeys finished in redbrick masonry that ties it nicely to its handsome 19th-century Gothic neighbours directly east. In this way the architects have managed to add visual interest to the main façade. Oddly, the lintel over the entrance is only connected to the ground on one side; as a result, it feels incomplete, not to mention wonky.

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