There are many ways of categorizing “the best” condos in Toronto. It could be low maintenance fees, best views, lowest prices, highest prices and many other characteristics. However, today, we will be looking at 5 of the most critically-acclaimed condo buildings according to the often-harsh yet well-respected Christopher Hume, architecture critic and urban issues columnist for the Toronto Star.
The reason we have chosen the following 5 condos is because they have all received the highly coveted “A Grade” from Christopher Hume. He assigns these “A Grades” sparingly, I would like to point out. In no particular order, the following all received “A’s” for their design and relationship to their immediate surroundings and the city:
1 – The Pure Spirit Condo 33 Mill Street
Hume loves the pointed 5-storey podium at the base of this condo tower in the Distillery District. It really does set it apart from the other “Glass towers” in the city. this is an excellent example of how architecture can be pressed into service not just to sell units but also to build a city. The most visible part of the complex, a 32-storey glass-and-steel tower, sits atop a five-storey brick podium designed to create space, in fact, a whole new square, east of Parliament south of Mill. The triangular-shaped building comes to a point at the west end of the site, creating one of the sharpest corners this side of Helmut Jahn. Such drama is rare in architecture, especially in Toronto architecture, and it’s hard to resist.
The podium does all the work; it defines space and allows for the continuation of the streetscape along Mill. Both the scale and materials mean the podium manages to be respectful of the industrial heritage and contemporary and appropriate. It also introduces a much-needed note of real urban life to the Distillery. The street-level retail will include grocery stores and banks as well as art galleries and design shops. Finally, it seems, it could actually be a place to live not just visit.
The tower itself, which has already become an east-end landmark, is clean, crisp and elegant. It divides the podium in half and rises from the street as a single element. It’s tough not to admire the sense of confidence, restraint and simplicity that informs this building. (Christopher Hume)
2 – MoZo (Modern Living Zone) 333 Adelaide Street East
Located at the corner of King St E and Sherbourne St in the St Lawrence Market District, MoZo was quoted by Hume as “One of the most beautiful buildings in Toronto”. Though not in love with the MoZo name, Hume IS in love with the building’s sensitivity, smartness, innovation and beauty. According to Hume,” what distinguishes MoZo is the attention to big stuff, as well as the small details. The building fits effortlessly into the neighbourhood in terms of height and bulk. It also brings architectural life to the street, which it goes to great pains to address.
3 – Spire 33 Lombard Street
Located at the corner of Church and Adelaide, 33 Lombard St was completed by Context Developments in 2007. Hume describes Spire as one of the most elegant condo buildings in Toronto. What makes this building attractive is the elegance and simplicity of its form. At 45 storeys, it’s one of those rare structures designed to take advantage of height, indeed, height is what makes it so appealing.
4 – The Loretto 385 Brunswick Ave
Also developed by Context, The Loretto was formerly the Loretto Abbey Day School and sits on a grassy, tree-lined Brunswick Ave, north of Bloor St W. Developing The Loretto involved a complex restoration and contemporary glass and steel addition to the heritage school house as well as an addition of 13 townhomes located in the former school yard.
According to Hume, “this is one project where less was more. Other than changing classrooms into apartments and adding a top floor on the south side, the main alteration is a row of 13 townhouses at the back of the property. Clad in limestone, unobtrusive and polite, these boxy additions are pretty much what successful urban intensification is all about.”
Loretto College was never the most beautiful building in Toronto, but with its magnificent entry staircase, engaging facades and history, it was a perfect candidate for adaptive re-use. How much simpler it would have been to demolish this heap and start from scratch. But renovated and restored, it manages to be a brilliant addition to the neighbourhood while staying the same.
5 – CASA CONDOMINIO RESIDENZA 33 Charles Street East
Aside from its ridiculous name, this is an unusually elegant structure says Hume. Toronto has no shortage of glass towers, of course, this one stands out, and not just because it’s 45 storeys tall, though that certainly doesn’t hurt. What makes it so architecturally compelling is the utter simplicity of the design and the attention to detail.
This condo does present a compelling case for the tower on a podium model that Toronto planners seem to love so much. This time around, the tower sits atop a large five storey glass box that comes out right to the sidewalk. Because the services have been located on the east side of the building accessible by a laneway, there’s nothing to interrupt the purity of the front facade.
The tower, which has balconies that run the full length on all four sides, rises uninterrupted from top to bottom. It is capped with a flat roof-like structure that provides an emphatic sense of termination to the building. Many modern towers, of course, just seem to stop, as if the builders had run out of materials. This condo reminds us of the potential of the roof; it doesn’t have to be peaked to be interesting.