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

Kensington Brewing CompanyArchitect: Paradigm Architecture + DesignCompletion: 2017Address: 299/301 Augusta Ave.

Grade: A+

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The spectre of development hangs over Kensington Market as never before. What is arguably Toronto’s most popular neighbourhood finds itself under greater pressure than ever. If history is any indication, locals have good reason to worry. Look at Yorkville and Queen Street West, two neighbourhoods obliterated by the toxic forces of growth and greed. The irony is that the appeal of Kensington lies, of course, in its grittiness and lack of slickness, qualities that will inevitably disappear when developers arrive.

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Yet the advent of 299/301 Augusta Ave. has done nothing to diminish the market’s draw. Indeed, the three-storey mixed-use building is a model of how new and old architecture can blend harmoniously despite their enormous differences. Designed by Paradigm Architecture + Design, the building makes no effort to hide its modernity but it also pays homage to the street in its materiality, scale and the delight it takes in its own nonconformist aesthetic. At grade, it’s home to the Kensington Brewing Company; above it includes an office floor and on top of that four micro-apartments.

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Clearly, this isn’t a condo, but it could be. More importantly, it reminds us of architecture’s (infrequently used) power to go beyond conventionality and design for even the most limited and awkward of conditions. In Toronto, we talk a lot about the “missing middle,” but here’s something even more unusual — the largely unexplored potential of the missing micro. Less is rarely so much more. With its black masonry and Cor-ten steel façade, this is a building that achieves the paradoxical perfection of standing out while fitting in.

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