Undead

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nagging self-perception as a "secondary" entity with only a marginal stature on the world stage, at best.
I would argue this perception is the reality. Canada's a bit player on the world stage, the 51st U.S. state. I think the bigger factors are the ones you mentioned--Canada's relativeness newness. After all, even tiny European countries have a lot of beautiful architecture because their history goes way back.
 

irin.shept

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I would argue this perception is the reality. Canada's a bit player on the world stage, the 51st U.S. state. I think the bigger factors are the ones you mentioned--Canada's relativeness newness. After all, even tiny European countries have a lot of beautiful architecture because their history goes way back.
You're right, Canada is in fact comparatively small in stature with respect to socio-demographic and economic clout but I believe that it's our self-conscious perception of smallness, first and foremost, that is most responsible for our cultural propensity to limit the scope of our ambitions to the realm of provincial mediocrity. Canada was founded as a quasi-colonial dominion that would "promote the interests of the British Empire" (yes, that's an often overlooked clause in our 1867 Constitution that still exists to this day!) and was never truly "meant" to play a major role as a primary entity on the world stage. In other words, our mediocrity persists precisely because it is by design.

I would hate going off topic and delving into a complex political/historical rant but I believe that this seemingly trivial/marginal element of our constitution actually explains a lot (more than most of us realize) in terms of why this country (and by extension, this city) often behaves the way it does. When you look at the small-mindedness or half-heartedness in the way everything tends to be done over here, from our lackluster transit planning to our uninspiring architectural and urban design, you suddenly realize that this isn't some random pathology in our mindset or mode of governance common to all "flawed human societies" but rather the downstream effect of a very systematic process through which the terms of our national existence shape our cultural character (both as individuals and collectively) and inform our norms of action.
 
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karledice

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You're right, Canada is in fact comparatively small in stature with respect to socio-demographic and economic clout but I believe that it's our self-conscious perception of smallness, first and foremost, that is most responsible for our cultural propensity to limit the scope of our ambitions to the realm of provincial mediocrity. Canada was founded as a quasi-colonial dominion that would "promote the interests of the British Empire" (yes, that's an often overlooked clause in our 1867 Constitution that still exists to this day!) and was never truly "meant" to play a major role as a primary entity on the world stage. In other words, our mediocrity persists precisely because it is by design.

I would hate going off topic and delving into a complex political/historical rant but I believe that this seemingly trivial/marginal element of our constitution actually explains a lot (more than most of us realize) in terms of why this country (and by extension, this city) often behaves the way it does. When you look at the small-mindedness or half-heartedness in the way everything tends to be done over here, from our lackluster transit planning to our uninspiring architectural and urban design, you suddenly realize that this isn't some random pathology in our mindset or mode of governance common to all "flawed human societies" but rather the downstream effect of a very systematic process through which the terms of our national existence shape our cultural character (both as individuals and collectively) and inform our norms of action.
wow I really appreciate the deep explanation
These really explains alot to me: " Canada was founded as a quasi-colonial dominion that would "promote the interests of the British Empire" (yes, that's an often overlooked clause in our 1867 Constitution that still exists to this day!) and was never truly "meant" to play a major role as a primary entity on the world stage. In other words, our mediocrity persists precisely because it is by design."
 

emphur

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Toronto wasn't meant to become the largest city in Canada, let alone top the list in North America, so a lot of the lagging in design and infrastructure people complain about is really a symptom of that, along with the resistance to the idea that Toronto even could be a world sized city (fighting large developments, fighting transit etc).

Anyways, something a little more on topic to this building that had me thinking. The decision for cheap materials on the back here is really a failure of city policy, plain and simple. Cities really shouldn't be designed to have a presentable pretty front face where the rear ends up ugly and only serves the purpose of utility, that's bad city building. Many alleyways in other cities serve more than just the purpose of being a garbage dump. A college friend from the UK even specifically asked me why North American cities focus all the design to the front building face, it caught me off guard, so this issue isn't going unnoticed.

Ignoring the Mercer Street facing side, and focusing on the alleyway: This block will be the most dense feeling in the city by far, quite literally Hong Kong levels of density, yet the 'city' part is a failure due to the lacking ground level experience. This alleyway is a prime example of city policies that build utility alleyways that not only encourage cheap finishes as seen here, but make for something useless to anyone other than a delivery truck driver. It's hard to blame a developer for not caring when the city designates the space to be utility only and to lack any vibrancy. Nobu and the surrounding area could be quite vibrant if the space within and around the alley and along mercer was originally built for micro retail and markets.

I do agree that the developer really shouldn't throw up those materials on a proclaimed luxury build, but if the back of the design also had to interface with the laneway I could see that the spandrel you are seeing would be toned back significantly. Alas the city wouldn't want that, or even if they let it, it's actively discouraged with no amount of nice hardscaping. Which is too bad, because narrow vibrant side streets away from *most* cars would be a dream for the city.

I'm not arguing that every back alley needs that level of treatment, understandably some do house many utilities, but this is the Entertainment District after all. There is quite literally thousands of people that will live within this block and yet there is nothing to do within the block. But every alleyway deserve some type of dignity, through hardscaping.

(Google Streetview)
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Melbourne has many great alleys in their core, but many are created artificially which is what should have been done here (i.e planning for market streets over utility streets), this example is more organic and just happens to have businesses within it. Oh look it still functions as an alleyway even with added vibrancy, wow who knew.

(Google Streetview)
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And a more extreme example: The same density and width as the Nobu alley, a little more grit but a lot more people. Alleyways in Hong Kong are more narrow than most cars, so by comparison our alleyways are like their streets anyways.

(Google Streetview)
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Undead

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I believe that it's our self-conscious perception of smallness, first and foremost, that is most responsible for our cultural propensity to limit the scope of our ambitions to the realm of provincial mediocrity.
Fake it till you make it, am I right? ;) You raise some intriguing points, but I don't want to stray too far off topic. Good food for thought, thanks!
 

ProjectEnd

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Let's hope so. This is supposed to be a prestigious project and to see the builders taking shortcuts where things are "hidden" from view is a massive letdown to those who care about the quality of Toronto's built form.
As was discussed previously, this is the way many / most have built for centuries.
 

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I've written and rewritten a post about four times now. In the end I don't think want to get too deep into the weeds, but I'll say that: I agree with you completely but it's far more complex than 'design' or even 'ambition'.
 

Undead

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It's basic economics. If it's not strictly necessary, but costs too much, it won't be done--especially in construction where the margins are very tight. Until the current market incentives change, we'll keep getting crap design. The bigger culprit, as I've maintained for a while, is the RE bubble. It has inflated demand to the point where anything sells. Deflate that and perhaps devs will be forced to do put more effort in securing our dollars.
 

AlvinofDiaspar

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It's basic economics. If it's not strictly necessary, but costs too much, it won't be done--especially in construction where the margins are very tight. Until the current market incentives change, we'll keep getting crap design. The bigger culprit, as I've maintained for a while, is the RE bubble. It has inflated demand to the point where anything sells. Deflate that and perhaps devs will be forced to do put more effort in securing our dollars.

Probably not - price would probably matter even more in that kind of an environment.

AoD
 

Bjays92

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Omg what a bunch of whiners or shrills for a foreign government or most likely both.
What does this have to do with literally anything anyone has said.

To Emphurs point. Even a city like Kitchener has put significant work into their side streets and alleyways. The architecture in the region may not be stunning (sadly) but commissioned art on blank walls and roadways, colorful benches and social areas, pedestrian streets and more help liven up the downtown. Even if it is still lacking attractive street level retail at this time, it still helps things feel more vibrant.

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