Site Seeing With Hume: Toronto’s Alter Condos Gets Its Grade

Toronto Storeys standout feature “Site Seeing With Hume” reviews the city’s most talked about condos — and has architects and building designers on the edge of their structures. Renowned architecture critic and veteran journalist Christopher Hume has revived his condo critiques, exclusively for TorontoStoreys.com. 

Alter Condos

Address: 355 Church St./99 McGill St.
Developer: Tridel
Architects: architectsAlliance
Completed: 2018

GRADE: C+

Alter Condos (Image courtesy of Tridel)

It’s one building but it looks like two.

At street level, it’s a handsome mixed-use four-storey glass podium that feels comfortably connected to the sidewalk. Up above, there’s a 33-storey tower that has the unnerving look of a building designed for one purpose — to stand out.

READ: City Wants More Money From Condo Developers, But Buyers Will Pay For It

That’s something seen more often than ever in a city where high-rise condo architecture has morphed into a desperate search for novelty.

The tower in question: Alter Condos.

The development is located on the southeast corner of Church and McGill Streets and offers a much more reassuring experience to passers-by than those looking it from a distance. As a part of the skyline, it resembles a simplified sort of Rubik’s Cube, but without the cubes or colours.

READ: Toronto Condos Could Get More Expensive After City Decision On Parkland

The tower is organized in a series of horizontal sections, each the opposite of the one above and below. It’s an eye-catching arrangement. Against a backdrop of the city, it won’t be ignored.

It is a landmark.

With its recessed balconies and off-kilter symmetry, Alter is an urban artifact, more sculptural than spatial, more an object than a space.

READ: Condo Cancellations Risk Crisis Of Confidence In Toronto Real Estate

Certainly, this stretch of Church south of College has ended up a hodgepodge — another example of how badly planning has failed Toronto. How comfortably Alter occupies its site is up for debate.

On the other hand, the base is an obvious improvement of a streetscape that needs it. Too bad that the main tenant will be an A&W outlet, one of those fast-food chains that contribute to the growing homogeneity of our city.

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