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

Axis CondosDeveloper: CentreCourtArchitect: IBI GroupCompletion: 2019Address: 411 Church St.

Grade: A

Axis Condos Photo courtesy of CentreCourt.

Located on the east side of Church St. north of Carlton south of Wood, Axis Condos is a hard building to ignore. It's not so much height that turns heads as the exteriors. After all, at 38 storeys it barely scrapes the sky. In this case, IBI Group architects have used balconies to turn the tower into a visually striking structure, all diagonals and undulations that could be the backdrop to an image by M.C.Escher. This zigzag pattern outlined in white cladding makes Axis one of the most sculptural high-rises to appear on the Toronto skyline in some time. But unlike, say, Daniel Libeskind's L Tower, which is sculptural because of its shape and form, at Axis, it has been applied. Otherwise, it would be an ordinary tower on a podium configuration already very familiar in this city.

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Despite the drama, Axis has a strong connection to the street. Given the narrow dimensions of Church, that’s critical. Facing west to the old Maple Leaf Gardens, the podium is fully transparent and retail friendly. It seems likely it will give as much vitality to the street as it takes. In keeping with the largely residential enclave, on Wood, the complex turns into a row of quiet low-rise townhouses.

The tower, set back from both Wood and Church, avoids overpowering the neighbourhood. All in all, the Axis benefits from clever planning. It fits its site nicely and though the architecture settles for novelty, it’s all in a good cause.

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