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"Barely Feels Like A Design": DRP Critiques Revived 8 Gloucester
April 24, 2019
Julian Mirabelli

It seems that the writers of Game of Thrones aren't the only ones resurrecting things from the grave these days. At a marathon session two week ago, Toronto's Design Review Panel got their first glimpse of a revived version of 8 Gloucester Street, one of many tower proposals along the Yonge Corridor that fell to the wayside during the City's temporary halt to rampant development along the stretch from College to Bloor while it sorted out a new Heritage Conservation District.

Previous design of 8 Gloucester, image courtesy of Angel Developments and Tricon Capital.

Plans for a 34-storey, 232-unit condo tower from Angel Developments and Hariri Pontarini Architects were approved for rezoning on this site way back in 2013. After receiving City Council's blessing, the project then fell dormant, with no progress until this month, when a Site Plan Approval was submitted with new owners Tricon Capital brought on, and the designers being replaced with Graziani + Corazza Architects.

The SPA application features the same height, massing, and unit count as the previously approved tower, but now sports a slightly different aesthetic and cladding. As with the previous iteration, the site includes the heritage-designated Gloucester Mews building fronting onto Yonge, which will remain largely untouched, and the retained facade of a smaller two-storey heritage building on Gloucester Street.

With the new design, Graziani + Corazza has simplified the facade treatment, removing most of the balconies and replacing them with Juliet balconies finished with gold-coloured glass. Corner glazing units would also be shaded gold, running the full height of the building, while a single strip of precast concrete panels intersects the west and south facades.

At the base, the podium of the building facing onto Gloucester Street features a contemporary brick cladding that steps down in height between the Gloucester Mews and two-storey heritage facade straddling the new tower. The massing and cladding is similar to the previous iteration, but an angled column at the recessed main lobby entrance has been removed, and the glazed wall has been brought forward to be closer in line with the face of the podium.

On the eastern edge of the site, an existing laneway and parking spaces will be kept as is, with the laneway being widened to accommodate loading truck access into the parking garage. Bordering on the eastern edge of the site is the linear park stretching over the path of the subway tunnel between Gloucester and Isabella.

Panel members were none too pleased with the revised design, and had some harsh critiques for the design team. Panelists suggested that there were "benefits to going back to the previous design", which contained subtle details that were important in refining its overall composition.

For starters, Panel members were not convinced of the use of gold-coloured glazing, which the design team stated had been included because it was part of the approved rezoning design. They also did not see the need for the use of precast concrete, saying that it did not add much to the articulation of the building. They stated that there was "a flatness to things architecturally" and that "further refinement is necessary".

With regards to massing, Panelists pointed out that the current design is articulated as a singular L-shaped building, whereas the previous design was articulated more as a north-south rectangular block with an eastern appendage to it which worked better for the overall composition. They also felt that the penthouse was quite heavy and not well integrated into the overall massing.

At the podium level, most Panel members approved of the use of brick, but also wanted more depth and refinement with a more interesting contemporary look to the new Gloucester facade. Most Panelists also took issue with the east facade of the building, saying that the ground level did not engage with the park in any way, particularly with the presence of the parking lot, the use of a "basic garage door" occupying a large portion of the facade, and the flat grey spandrels above.

One Panel member summed up the criticism by stating that it "feels more like an extrusion of the best possible floor plate" and that the design team "spent a lot of time on the plan, and then just wrapped it in curtain wall". They stated that "there's a huge amount of architectural work that needs to be done on the tower" and that "it barely feels like a design", before concluding that the design team "has to come back with a better thought out idea".

With the landscape around the building being the only positive to come from the review, the Panel unsurprisingly voted unanimously for a redesign of the tower.

We will keep you updated as the design continues to evolve for 8 Gloucester, but in the meantime, you can join in the discussion by checking out the associated Forum thread or by leaving a comment in the space provided on this page.