Every building should have a nickname.
Well, maybe not every building, but certainly the big ones, the tall, dark and handsome, the new and novel. London, which boasts the best nicknames, has the Shard, the Gherkin, the Cheesegrater, the Walkie Talkie and Big Ben (actually the Great Bell of the Great Clock of Westminster).
In Prague, there’s Frank Gehry’s Fred and Ginger. Beijing, not known for its humour, has the Bird’s Nest. In Barcelona, Gaudi’s famous apartment building, la Casa Mila, is known as La Padrera (The Stone Quarry). Closer to home, the Absolute Condos in Mississauga were given their perfect nickname, the Marilyn Monroe, even before the first tower opened in 2007.
But what about Toronto, a city whose mostly generic towers could use something to make them a little more interesting if not exciting? Perhaps a few good nicknames might enliven Toronto’s grim streetscape. So for better or worse, here are a few suggestions:
Suggested Nickname: The Harlequin
Hines and Ivanhoé Cambridge
Address: 81 Bay Street
Builder: Hines and Ivanhoé Cambridge
Architects: WilkinsonEyre Architects, Adamson Associate Architects
Year Completed: 2021
With its diamond-sculpted glass façade, this twin-tower commercial complex in downtown Toronto is one of the most striking recent additions to the skyline. Designed by London-based architects, WilkinsonEyre, this is a project that takes its civic responsibilities seriously, giving as much as it takes. But it doesn’t have a worthy handle. Let’s be honest, CIBC Square, is, well, conventional and forgettable. In this case, however, the nickname is obvious: Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to The Harlequin. Let the romance begin.
Suggested Nickname: The Turkey
Address: 130 St George Street
Builder: University of Toronto
Architect: Mathers & Haldenby Architects
Year Completed: 1973
Few structures in the city are loved less than the University of Toronto’s Robarts Library. The fact the bunker-like brutalist beast was used for exterior shots of a prison in the horror flick Resident Evil pretty well tells the story. No surprise it’s often called Fort Book. But on second glance, Robarts bears an uncanny resemblance to the bird after which it should be named, The Turkey.
Suggested Nickname: The Zipper
Address: 1 Bloor St East
Builder: Great Gulf
Architect: Hariri Pontarini Architects
Year Completed: 2018
Standing 75 storeys tall on the corner of Yonge and Bloor, One Bloor is hard to miss even here in Tower City. The most distinctive feature of the building – aside from its height – is the glazed seams that curve their way vertically from top to bottom. As the edges move closer and further apart, they look like the front of a too-small windbreaker on a too-large person, one that can’t be done up. Which leads us to its nickname: The Zipper.
M1 and M2 Towers
Suggested Nickname: Squeezebox 1 and Squeezebox 2
Rogers Real Estate Development and Urban Capital
Address: 533 Webb Drive
Builder: Rogers Real Estate Development and Urban Capital
Architect: CORE Architects
Year Completed: TBD
Even in Mississauga, a city dedicated to built kitsch, the M1 and M2 Towers are landmarks. With their gaudy anything-goes zigzag exteriors, they are a cry for attention in a cacophony of me, me, me. Names like M1 and M2 just don’t cut it; let’s call these twin accordion tower monstrosities what they are: Squeezebox 1 and Squeezebox 2.
Sugar Wharf Condos
Suggested Nickname: Camouflage Towers or Psoriasis Place
Address: 138 Downes Street
Builder: Menkes Developments
Year Completed: TBD
You have to feel sorry for the two Sugar Wharf condo towers. Sitting on the Toronto waterfront east of Jarvis, the mottled exteriors of this unfortunate pair of residential high-rises stand out, but for all the wrong reasons. Either they suffer from some awful disease of the façade or are trying to hide in plain sight. As for a nickname, it’s hard to say whether it should be Camouflage Towers or Psoriasis Place. Either one will do.
Suggested Nickname: The Ink Well
Address: 470 Front Street West
Architects: Adamson Associates Architects, Hariri Pontarini Architects, BDP, gpa
Year Completed: TBD
The Well, the massive mixed-use, multi-tower complex at Front and Spadina, certainly does its best to enhance the skyline in a part of the city that suffers from years of bad planning and worse architecture. Nearby residential towers represent a wasted opportunity of monumental proportions. But that’s got nothing to do with The Well, at this point best known for one of its tenants, namely the remains of the Toronto Star. Poorly managed and journalistically emaciated, the former paper of record faces an uncertain future. With that in mind, I suggest the building be known as The Ink Well.
Suggested Nickname: VICE Condos
Address: 12-14 York Street
Builder: Lanterra Developments
Year Completed: 2014
The ICE Condos, those notorious twin “ghost hotels,” have become the location of the dark side of the condo revolution. These two towers – 57 and 67 storeys – have been the site of shootings, stabbings and any number of drunken Saturday night brawls. A couple of years ago, several people were charged with endangering human life for throwing bottles off a balcony. Stairwells are regularly filled with garbage and elevators are seriously problematic, often out of service. In short, this is a place to be avoided at all costs. So let’s agree, then, they should not be called ICE but VICE Condos.
Suggested Nickname: The Mummy
Address: 224 King Street West
Builder: Harhay Developments
Year Completed: 2015
At 47 storeys, Theatre Park, just east of the Royal Alexandra Theatre, would feel awkward and out of place regardless of its appearance. But the steel ribbons that wrap the tower look uncannily like bandages that have been applied carelessly and are ready to fly apart at any moment. It puts one in mind of Boris Karloff playing some ancient Egyptian prince coming back to life eons after being buried alive. There’s only one nickname for this unhappy edifice: The Mummy.