ProjectEnd

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Oh, so this is some trad nonsense. If you want that, buy some land and build something like that. Why should 'developers and architects' be obligated to build what "most people" want? It ain't your land and it ain't your money.
 

daniel_kryz

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For completeness' sake I think TCHC has a DRP as well. Anyways, for all the bellyaching as to how the DRP killed a project - it isn't - it is either the proponent dumbing it down because they couldn't/wouldn't build what they have originally proposed, or it couldn't get approved by other authorities as is due to other reasons.

Repeat after me - the DRP is advisory in their role.

AoD
Sadly... it's advisory. We have a lot of junk getting built in Toronto, and it would be just so awesome if we had a mandatory "high quality design" policy. Although, it's pretty clear that they've had a big influence on the design of projects... and their guidance is usually taken seriously. I wonder why.
 

daniel_kryz

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Oh, so this is some trad nonsense. If you want that, buy some land and build something like that. Why should 'developers and architects' be obligated to build what "most people" want? It ain't your land and it ain't your money.
Ummm... that's why we have a planning department that creates planning policies and makes developers conform to them 😂 😂 😂
 

interchange42

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Aesthetics. That's my point.

It doesn't matter how obsessed architects & developers are with modernism, most people don't like indifferent glass boxes...
Careful with the "most people" thing. Try to get most people to agree on what they do want, and there's a good chance that building will be some kitsch pastiche hunk-a-junk. Taste is subjective, but it can also be tutored, although most people never bother to learn.

In the design world, no-one wants to cater to most people. They build what their budget allows, and downtown here where they can afford to charge more for the space, they can afford SHoP Architects and terra cotta accents on the exterior. Most people won't notice, but enough will appreciate it that the building will no doubt be sought-after by firms that can afford it.

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daniel_kryz

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I'd love for you to show me where Planning would derive the authority to dictate architectural style or aesthetics...
The London Plan (London Ontario, although it's getting appealed), Don Mills Crossing SP, Golden Mile SP (especially this one, but it's under appeal), and a few more. Most big cities didn't adopt design policies city-wide, although it is used in many secondary plans. Also, the Planning Act specifically allows
"matters relating to exterior design, including without limitation the character, scale, appearance and design features of buildings, and their sustainable design".

So yeah. Of course, we should allow designers to be creative... but we should also have a vision for our city and weed out the majority of proposals that are unquestionably crap.
 

daniel_kryz

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Careful with the "most people" thing.
True, although there have been many polls that prove what people actually like. I'm not against contemporary design, I'm against design that has no relation to the human-scale, no respect for context, and design that is just clearly lazy or ugly.
In the design world, no-one wants to cater to most people.
That's very sad. My design teacher taught me that the biggest mistake of designers is to completely forget about the people that will use their design. They often get lost in their own ego & ideology, and even more often only think about the client. Same thing in the development industry. That's one reason why we have planning... so that the public interest is considered in the building of our world. Yeah yeah I know the system is broken, but that's not a reason to give up on it.
 

ProjectEnd

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The London Plan (London Ontario, although it's getting appealed), Don Mills Crossing SP, Golden Mile SP (especially this one, but it's under appeal), and a few more. Most big cities didn't adopt design policies city-wide, although it is used in many secondary plans. Also, the Planning Act specifically allows
"matters relating to exterior design, including without limitation the character, scale, appearance and design features of buildings, and their sustainable design".

So yeah. Of course, we should allow designers to be creative... but we should also have a vision for our city and weed out the majority of proposals that are unquestionably crap.
I hope I'm not coming across as being too pugilistic because that's not my intent. I'm trying to get you to think through the things you're saying in terms of a legal structure of enforcement. What those plans say is 'we want design excellence' - a nice yet nebulous statement that can be used to applaud or cudgel any given thing based on who's applying it. Those plans rightly stop short of prescribing a particular style or aesthetic because those writing them know there's no legal way to enforce something like that.

Try this: I'm proposing a building you don't like aesthetically. How can you compel me to change it?
True, although there have been many polls that prove what people actually like. I'm not against contemporary design, I'm against design that has no relation to the human-scale, no respect for context, and design that is just clearly lazy or ugly.

That's very sad. My design teacher taught me that the biggest mistake of designers is to completely forget about the people that will use their design. They often get lost in their own ego & ideology, and even more often only think about the client. Same thing in the development industry. That's one reason why we have planning... so that the public interest is considered in the building of our world. Yeah yeah I know the system is broken, but that's not a reason to give up on it.
Polls are not arguments. They merely summarize the subjective opinion of those being surveyed. I'm sure most folks in Seaside, Florida love their environs. What 'polls' and 'the people' often fight is change and difference but it's precisely through these things that we advance as humans and as a society.

To be clear though, change isn't always good. The automobile, for example, did more to ruin cities and humanity than perhaps anything else in the last century, yet it was and still is embraced with open arms because of the illusion of freedom it confers.
 

DavidCapizzano

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I can't say for sure since I'm not in "the industry" but it's always felt to me, that designs for a lot of projects are limited because their proponents are largely super conservative and risk averse. They don't want any aspect of a project to be polarizing in a design sense. I think there are often great concepts and ideas proposed, but as the project works its way through approvals and closer to reality those bold moves are slowly walked back out of the fear that it might make the building less marketable, and as such less profitable.

What's really required is bravery and boldness from developers, not architects.
 

interchange42

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True, although there have been many polls that prove what people actually like. I'm not against contemporary design, I'm against design that has no relation to the human-scale, no respect for context, and design that is just clearly lazy or ugly.
When you say "design that is clearly lazy or ugly", it's an unhelpful generalization. Only being specific about why you see it that way can move that subjective evaluation towards some more objective.
That's very sad. My design teacher taught me that the biggest mistake of designers is to completely forget about the people that will use their design. They often get lost in their own ego & ideology, and even more often only think about the client. Same thing in the development industry. That's one reason why we have planning... so that the public interest is considered in the building of our world. Yeah yeah I know the system is broken, but that's not a reason to give up on it.
I did not remotely say that designers are completely forgetting about people that will use their design. In fact my point was the opposite, namely that design in the development industry is more targeted to specific demographics: you can't build one place that will suit everyone, so you design for the people who will interact with your work, as opposed to some amorphous "most people."

You then go on, umm somewhat melodramatically, with "I know the system is broken, but that's not a reason to give up on it." The system has its foibles, sure, but over time aspects of the planning system that don't work well are identified, and modifications are made to improve it. It's a drawn out process of incremental change, but that's real world, not "no reason to give up on it" hyperbole.

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daniel_kryz

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Try this: I'm proposing a building you don't like aesthetically. How can you compel me to change it?
Thanks, I'm not trying to come across as rude. I think there are many ways.
Some ideas: we can create specific policies like "human-scaled podium" (which planners already do in many instances) along with guidelines to let them know what it means, ban specific materials (spandrel), specify an intended character for some parts of the city (and create guidelines on how to achieve that character), among other policies. Also, the easiest thing to do would be to make it mandatory for developers to implement the DRP's consensus comments (perhaps with a planner's approval of the DRP's recommendations). The DRP can be expanded to review more projects, and they can then comment on aesthetics on a case-by-case basis. These are just a few ideas.
Those plans rightly stop short of prescribing a particular style or aesthetic because those writing them know there's no legal way to enforce something like that.
If we take on a prescriptive approach to design, there are actually many ways to enforce these aspirations. If you go through the policies of a Heritage Conservation District, you might notice that the architectural policies are very prescriptive. From the shape of the roof, to the style of your windows, to even such things like signage... these policies can get so prescriptive that you can basically picture what the development will look like just by reading the policies. We can take the same approach, although perhaps not to such a draconian extent! Also, I don't see how these policies could be appealed... because the Planning Act allows exterior design policies without limitation.
The automobile, for example, did more to ruin cities
I agree. But here's the thing, that statement is ALSO subjective. Some people believe that the automobile was key to the progress and economic development of the 20th century... and that it made people's lives better by making transportation convenient. See? This statement, too, is subjective. But do we exclude transportation from planning policy because some people think cars are the best? No. We decided to build around people, not cars. Same thing with architecture. Some people really like how our typical condos look. But most people think they're ugly and a detriment to the character & vibrancy of our city. My point is... most planning policies are subjective. And yet it's still better to have these policies than to have nothing.
When you say "design that is clearly lazy or ugly", it's an unhelpful generalization. Only being specific about why you see it that way can move that subjective evaluation towards some more objective.
To be clear, this is what I mean by "lazy and ugly". (heritage base is beautiful, don't get me wrong)
I'll try to be more clear next time. I shouldn't post generalizations every time... you're absolutely right about that.
The system has its foibles, sure, but over time aspects of the planning system that don't work well are identified, and modifications are made to improve it.
I don't think enough is being done. From the LPAT, to the Yellowbelt, to provincial meddling & corruption, to a lack of staff to even complete a decent amount of planning studies... there's a lot of stuff to talk about. Perhaps if the NDP comes in, maybe we'll finally have a government that wants to make big changes to planning.

WOAH that's a big reply!
 
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ADRM

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I can't say for sure since I'm not in "the industry" but it's always felt to me, that designs for a lot of projects are limited because their proponents are largely super conservative and risk averse. They don't want any aspect of a project to be polarizing in a design sense.

Here comes a bit of an oversimplification, but this broadly encapsulates what I would say is the lion's share of the viewpoints that developers in this city (and others) take toward design (at least among the ones who don't deliver good design):
1. I simply do not give a hoot about design (this is sadly a significantly large group in the Toronto context);
2. I care about design but am not willing to spend money and it, mostly because I don't see the ROI in doing so and my primary job is to deliver a projected return;
3. I am are more or less indifferent to spending money on design but I see the ROI in doing so (at least in some cases);
4. I care about design but can't figure out how to deliver attractive projects;
5. I care about design (but everyone tells me I have bad taste).

I do work in the industry, so I'll refrain from assigning specific companies to the categories above (casting stones from glass condos...), but I will say that there is a fair degree of crossover across those categories (though some certainly tend to sit firmly within one). This dynamic is itself affected by, among other factors: the investor consortium brought together on any particular project; the site in question and the land economics/deal structure that brought the land to the project; and changes in leadership at the company. Lots of developers have stories about the City being obtuse about one particular design decision, but that's typically a secondary consideration to the above.
 
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DavidCapizzano

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Here comes a bit of an oversimplification, but this broadly encapsulates what I would say is the lion's share of the viewpoints that developers in this city (and others) take toward design:
1. I simply do not give a hoot about design (this is sadly a significantly large group in the Toronto context);
2. I care about design but am not willing to spend money and it, mostly because I don't see the ROI in doing so and my primary job is to deliver a projected return;
3. I am are more or less indifferent to spending money on design but I see the ROI in doing so (at least in some cases);
4. I care about design but can't figure out how to deliver attractive projects;
5. I care about design (but everyone tells me I have bad taste).

I do work in the industry, so I'll refrain from assigning specific companies to the categories above (casting stones from glass condos...), but I will say that there is a fair degree of crossover across those categories (though some certainly tend to sit firmly within one). This dynamic is itself affected by, among other factors: the investor consortium brought together on any particular project; the site in question and the land economics/deal structure that brought the land to the project; and changes in leadership at the company. Lots of developers have stories about the City being obtuse about one particular design decision, but that's typically a secondary consideration to the above.

this was v thoughtful and informative, and makes a lot of sense - appreciate you taking the time to share this

I think I definitely have a sense of the folks who do indeed care about the design (and material quality!!!) of their projects, and I also don't think there's anything inherently wrong with a builder being primarily focused on returns. Overall I just wish more of the cost focused developers would kind of own the fact that they're on tight budgets when it comes to design and really dig into simplicity with the best material execution they can afford - I see a lot of big moves proposed but rarely is the money there to actually build them correctly or with any grace.
 
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WislaHD

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Good design is nice, though I often end up wishing that some projects spent more time and money on their landscape architects over their architectural design, especially when the latter is value-engineered and fails on execution by the end anyway. As per the above, I would rather a project go simpler in design and merely injected some colour instead (blasphemy in Toronto, I know).

The ground level is how I interact with most projects when completed, and it is a make or break for whether or not the project contributes positively to the urban realm.
 

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