KING Toronto will transform what is already a transitional area of Toronto. At a crossroad defined by the east-west corridor King Street W and the emerging north-south connection from St. Andrews playground to the waterfront, BIG, Westbank and Allied have crafted a mixed-use development wrapped around a public plaza that will create a new centre for the community while connecting the various pedestrian pathways that crisscross the area. The starting point was a shared interest in Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67. We were inspired by, and worked to expand upon Safdie’s experiments in using architecture to build community. The resulting building is organized as a traditional perimeter block with a centre courtyard. The plaza is defined by two distinct atmospheres: a lushly landscaped forest, paired with an urban, hardscaped court. The balance between these perceived opposites is a reflection of Toronto’s rapid state of redevelopment: the union of old and new, an open community atmosphere in an intimate setting, calming green scenery within a bustling urban context. Surrounding this courtyard, KING Toronto rises as sets of pixels extruded upwards to create space for retail, boutique offices and housing – while still protecting the footprints of heritage buildings on the site. Each pixel is set at the size of a room; rotated 45 degrees from the street grid to increase exposure to light and air. The building mass is broken into four distinct mountain peaks, with valleys that make way for sunlight to reach the public plaza below. This undulating façade is a connective topography, promoting circulation through the neighborhood while creating green space of an abundance you would usually only expect in the suburbs.
At the base, pixels lift to provide 24/7 access across the courtyard, which will become a new destination for the larger neighbourhood. Existing pedestrian laneways are preserved and connected to this generous public space, which forms a unifying missing puzzle piece in the district’s emerging north-south axis. The building’s unique glass block envelope forms a translucent skin, separating inside from outside. Reflecting the urban environment during the day, this luminous façade will turn the building into a glowing neighbourhood beacon at night. The glass blocks also provide a nod to the historic brick and mortar architecture of the area, even while creating luminosity that will provide a beautiful counterpoint. KING Toronto offers an innovative alternative to the predominant podium-and-tower typology of mixed-use buildings in Toronto: the building steps back – away from King Street W – to reveal the heritage buildings and it opens up to invite the public into the central courtyard. It rises and falls in one continuous, topographical motion, providing balconies and terraces to all residents.
Each element of KING Toronto serves a purpose: The courtyard draws people in from the street, the heritage buildings provide an anchor on King Street W and the residences above offer unique views of the city from their cascading terraces. It’s a combination of public plaza, historic construction, retail and residential spaces that, together, will create something greater than the sum of its parts: a new community and way of living for Toronto.
Toronto is a city of long lines. Its vibrant corridors exemplify a form of urbanism in which city streets pass through multiple neighbourhoods along their length. Yonge Street, for example, has long been celebrated as the longest street in the world, and King Street W itself passes through a full spectrum of places from Corktown to St. Lawrence, the Financial District, the Entertainment District, Wellington Place, Niagara, Liberty Village, Parkdale, and Roncesvalles/High Park. But King West, between Spadina and Bathurst, is an exception to the rule. The built form and public spaces of this area are highly porous. Formed out of the transition from narrow residential lots of the 19th century to the largefootprint 20th century industrial buildings, King West exhibits a finer-grained fabric that facilitates a different kind of district. Public movement is invited deeper into the block through a surprising network of narrow laneways and mid-block connections into an urban world of nooks, crannies and inner courtyards. And – seemingly against all odds – retail animation flourishes here in intimate spaces off the main strip of King West itself. In these unique blocks, from Spadina to Bathurst, the life of the street is carried into bustling inner courtyard spaces. KING Toronto will re-affirm the unique character of King West, contributing to the public realm with a unique form that maintains the porous nature of the neighbourhood with a building that adds a vibrant courtyard, accessed via clear and welcoming openings to the street.