Toronto is growing exponentially, experiencing the same issues of housing affordability and availability as San Francisco and New York. Here, these issues are exacerbated by a highly prescriptive planning environment. In 2018, aA was asked to participate in a call “for ideas to …change the conversation about planning and building in Toronto”. We chose a site on city-designated Employment Lands, where residential development is prohibited. Such prohibitions inhibit the creation of the walkable, integrated and sustainable neighbourhoods that ensure the long-term health of cities.
Our response is a simple 7-storey structure that reinterprets the flexible architecture of the 19th century industrial loft for 21st century live-work uses. At grade, double-height spaces accommodate a café, workshop or showroom, while upper floors are suitable for apartments, offices or studio space. One building begets another, carving up massive suburban blocks into a network of streets and lanes – the kind of organic growth that characterized Toronto’s first growth spurt, in the19th century.