Site Seeing With Hume: Five Condos Gets Its Grade

Architects and building designers beware, renowned architecture critic and veteran journalist Christopher Hume is reviving his condo critiques, exclusively for

Developer: Graywood and MOD Developments
Architect: Hariri Pontarini and ERA Architects
Completion: 2017
Address: 5 St. Joseph St.

Grade: A

Five Condos

Tucked away behind Yonge St. from Charles St. in the north to Wellesley in the south, St. Nicholas St. runs through one of Toronto’s most charming yet wonderfully urban neighbourhoods. The area, which doesn’t really have a name, has the feel of a village, yet is just metres from the 24/7 hustle and bustle of the big city. Though it is a jumble of two- and three-storey housing, much of it 19th century, and tall condo towers, somehow it all manages to coalesce into something larger than the sum of its parts.

READ: Look How This Toronto Building Was Transformed Into A Skyscraper: Façadism Done Right

Five, a condo complex on the southwest corner of Yonge and St. Joseph St., succeeds in bringing 48 storeys worth of density without overpowering its surroundings. The tower, which sits atop a series of refurbished heritage structures that face St. Nicholas, is “invisible” from street level. The project also encompasses a row of vintage buildings on St. Joseph and a full half-block on Yonge. Though this would otherwise qualify as facadism, a fraudulent architectural phenomenon that passes for heritage preservation in this painfully weak-kneed city, in this case, it works. That’s because it incorporates a critical mass of older structures, enough to retain intact the original feel and flavour of the precinct.

READ: Notre Dame Fire Is A Painful Reminder That Nothing Lasts Forever

Indeed, the west side of Yonge from south of Wellesley to Charles St. and beyond is still lined with historic two- and three-storey buildings that the city has miraculously kept from destruction. Most are run-down, even ratty, but the potential is to transform this stretch of Toronto’s embarrassing main street into something spectacular is huge.

READ: Are Balconies In The City Worth The Trouble? Experts Weigh In

The vertical element of Five is one of those overly-worked towers that would have benefitted from a less-is-more approach. The undulating balconies add little to the exterior but confusion and unnecessary clutter. On the other hand, hidden as it is high in the sky, it takes advantage of its urban village location without interfering with it. For that, we should be thankful.

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