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

Sixty ColborneDeveloper: Freed Development and Carterra Private EquitiesArchitect: architectsAllianceCompletion: 2018Address: 60 Colborne St.

Grade: B+

Sixty Colborne

Up top, Sixty Colborne, a new condo at King and Church is less than entirely convincing. But, down at street level, it’s a welcome addition to one of Toronto’s most historic neighbourhoods. Designed by architectsAlliance, the new 25-storey structure is a mix of conventional glass and steel.

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The glass exteriors on the bottom six floors are framed by a brick coloured aluminum cladding that effortlessly connects the new building to its surroundings while rooting it firmly in the 21st century. It is a striking demonstration of the powerful role colour can play in architecture when used cleverly. The designers also paid attention to the cornice lines of existing structures, which adds a critical sense of belonging to the project.
Though it occupies a constrained site across the road from the mighty St. James Cathedral Church, Sixty Colborne manages to avoid overwhelming the corner. Given that the condo extends a full block south from King to Colborne, that's all the more remarkable.

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This is a case where transparency means more than great views for residents. It reduces the bulk of a tripartite slab that, constructed in other materials, would have had a deadening effect on an environment that demands – but doesn’t often get – special sensitivity. Further east on King, condos such as Bauhaus and office buildings like the SAS and Globe buildings might as well be anywhere. But to be honest, city planners have allowed even this most important heritage district to be reduced to little more than a series of sad facades, painful reminders that what has been lost far outweighs what has been gained. Sixty Colborne was lucky that it was built on what was a parking lot.

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Though the upper sections are quite ordinary, even with the angled balconies on Church, they are far enough above and away from the sidewalk that passers-by have to make an effort to see them. This is one of those happy cases where the adage applies: out of sight, out of mind. Our attention is focused on the low-rise podium. And it feels right at home.

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