Architects and building designers beware, renowned architecture critic and veteran journalist Christopher Hume is reviving his condo critiques, exclusively for storeys.com.
King+ CondosDeveloper: King Plus DevelopmentsArchitect: TACT ArchitectsCompletion: 2015Address: 39 Sherborne St.
For those who agree with the City of Toronto’s preferred method of balancing growth and heritage preservation, King+ Condos is a model project. In addition to saving two facades of a mid-19th-century hotel, the scheme includes a 14-storey glass-and-steel condo above.
Of course, purists would argue that saving a pair of exterior walls is not preservation, indeed, that it’s legalized vandalism. To be fair, the city tried to save the former National Hotel, but the Ontario Municipal Board ruled in favour of demolition. And so, three of the four corners of King and Sherbourne are now prime examples of “façadism.”
To its credit, the addition does its best to be invisible. Making no effort to hide its embarrassment, it’s little more than standard-issue 21st-century residential architecture. Within the limits of the scheme, however, the architects have been respectful of context. The condo continues the cornice line of the nicely restored Italianate structure and the extensions to the east and west try to blend in with the yellow brick roadhouse.
Aside from its ordinariness, the mid-rise tower is not so tall that it looms over the neighbourhood. Speaking of the neighbourhood, it’s worth noting that this is one of the city’s most historic districts, Toronto’s original ten blocks. But if you didn’t already know that, it’s unlikely you’d notice from what remains. Heritage schmeritage, in Toronto, history is seen as an obstacle rather than an asset.
Slowly but surely, building by building, King Street East is losing its unique character and becoming just another downtown precinct.