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 

Alter Condos

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


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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