7.21.2011

mississauga has arrived: sexy suburban buildings make real estate splash


These sexy buildings are right down the street from us. Allan and I both like them a lot, and have watched their progress in the Mississauga skyline with interest. Apparently many people have been doing the same. From the New York Times real estate pages:
People looking for the latest in twisting, gravity-defying architecture might start with the international cities of the Middle East or China, but you wouldn’t expect them to look here, in the suburbs outside Toronto.

But the first residents are moving into an extremely curvaceous, 56-story condominium tower in Mississauga, a city of about 738,000 people. The skyscraper, called the “Marilyn Monroe” by locals for its voluptuous curves, was the result of an international design competition initiated in 2005 by the tower’s development company, Fernbrook Cityzen.

Now, joining London’s spiraling Gherkin building and New York’s rippling 8 Spruce Street is Mississauga’s buxom Absolute tower — or rather, two of them, both designed by the Chinese architect Ma Yansong, assisted by his partner, Qun Dang. Sales were so brisk in the 428-unit “Marilyn” tower that the developers asked the architect to deliver a second, 50-story high-rise with 433 units.

This second high-rise also spirals asymmetrically, but not quite enough to steal the limelight from “Marilyn.”

The buildings were the final two towers to be developed in a five-tower condo complex, called Absolute World, built at Mississauga’s main intersection, across from the Square One Shopping Center, one of the largest shopping malls in the Toronto region. The first three towers were of more conventional high-rise design.

Mr. Ma, a founder of the MAD Architectural Design Studio in Beijing and a Beijing native, said he’d never heard of Mississauga when he discovered the design competition online in 2005.

However, he had spent several years studying in Yale University’s architectural program, so Mr. Ma said he had in mind a generic midsize North American city.

“I was imagining Mississauga as a city aiming to become Chicago or Toronto, with a lot of big towers, in the future,” he said.

Yet instead of designing a rectilinear structure, Mr. Ma decided to create something that was a bit softer and more livable.

“I was thinking maybe North American cities need something more organic, more natural, more human,” he said.

Mr. Ma said he loved the anthropomorphizing “Marilyn” nickname, which distinguishes his structures from the world’s other twisting towers, most of which are too geometrical for his tastes. A truer analogue might be Prague’s Dancing House, originally called “Fred and Ginger” for its sinuous qualities, evocative of the dancing pair. It was designed by Frank Gehry and the Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunic.

The unpredictable bulges of Mr. Ma’s skyscrapers, which have a slightly different appearance from every angle, created huge challenges for the towers’ builders and engineers, which translated to financial challenges for the developers. Most skyscrapers are built on straight lines for a reason: they’re more efficient to build that way.

. . . .


Hazel McCallion, Mississauga’s mayor, said it was unusual for a city struggling to build an identity through its architecture to look to a residential condominium developed privately. Typically, cities promote public projects, such as museum or opera house, which in fact Mississauga did with its architecturally distinguished City Hall, which opened in 1987, the result of a national architectural competition.

“What we’ve clearly demonstrated to all the developers that want to build in our city core, and throughout the city, is we want, if possible, architectural competition, because this is just a leading example of what can be accomplished,” she said.
I guess our "generic midsize North American city" has arrived!

True to form, as far as I can tell, most Mississauga residents hate these buildings, just as they hate their architecturally interesting City Hall, also the winner of a design competition. The extreme, almost universal dislike for City Hall completely baffles me, as the design doesn't strike me as particularly far-reaching or eccentric. But hey, conservatism in any area baffles me.

Thanks to Rachel A for sending.

20 comments:

James said...

I love the idea behind these towers, but -- as often happens with residential towers -- I find that the balconies spoil the lines somewhat.

As for Mississauga City Hall, my problem with it isn't that it's far-reaching or eccentric, but that it's not far-reaching or eccentric enough. It's basically a collection of very generic architectural tropes from the mid-80s: the pediment on the front, the clock tower, the big cylinder -- they're all done elsewhere better.

It always strikes me as looking like a prison that's trying hard not to look like a prison.

laura k said...

I love the idea behind these towers, but -- as often happens with residential towers -- I find that the balconies spoil the lines somewhat.

Yes, I agree. They wouldn't get away with building these without balconies, though! Those lovely windswept balconies that nobody uses.

As for Mississauga City Hall, my problem with it isn't that it's far-reaching or eccentric, but that it's not far-reaching or eccentric enough. It's basically a collection of very generic architectural tropes from the mid-80s: the pediment on the front, the clock tower, the big cylinder -- they're all done elsewhere better.

I like the building more than you do, but I absolutely agree it's not especially ground-breaking or "out there" - which is why for the life of me, I can't understand why people hate it so much. The general opinion is just the opposite of yours, I find.

James said...

I've often wondered why more condo towers don't use glassed-in sun-rooms with openable windows instead of balconies. Especially in a case like this, where every balcony has another directly above it, I think that approach would be just as useful (more, actually, since the space would be usable even in bad weather) but produce nicer lines for the building.

Amy said...

I was going to send this to you, but I see I am too late. Interesting article and buildings. Big surprise to me that Mississauga is such a big city. I assumed it was a suburb of Toronto, not a city with three-quarter million o
people of its own. Live and learn.

laura k said...

Thanks, Amy!

I assumed it was a suburb of Toronto, not a city with three-quarter million people of its own.

It is both. :) Mississauga is Canada's 6th largest city, and one of the fastest growing cities in the world. Between 2000 and 2005 it doubled in population, and since then has grown by another 30%. This is all from immigration, so it's one of the most diverse cities on the planet.

It is most certainly a suburb of Toronto, but it also home to a huge number of corporate headquarters and businesses. The mayor's plan for the city was to attract those businesses and have them pay their own way with development fees, which so far have been used to keep taxes low and services high. Now that the area has almost topped out for development and she will eventually retire (or die, whichever comes first!), it will be interesting to see how things change.

BUT Mississauga doesn't look like a city. It looks like new North American suburbs - ugly sprawl - with a few older areas (from pre-amalgamation) that look like small towns. (When we first moved to Canada we lived in one of those areas, near Lake Ontario.)

Now I will stop babbling about this wonderful town and get back to work. :)

Adam said...

Yeah, well, Toronto certainly doesn't have much architectural vision and city planning vision is almost non-existent. That Mississauga trumps Toronto should make our bigger city think again about how it will function and look in the near and distant future. Or perhaps the developers will continue to (over)run city gov't.

laura k said...

Toronto sucks for architecture, but nothing in this post should imply that Mississauga trumps Toronto in that respect. With the exception of 2 buildings and 2 areas that remain like small towns, Mississauga has zero architecture, and is mostly downright ugly.

I think it's a great place to live - good services, full of green space, responsive government - but architecture? No.

impudent strumpet said...

she will eventually retire (or die, whichever comes first!)

I think it might be wise to clarify this statement for the non-locals by adding that she's 90 years old :)

laura k said...

You know, I thought of that...! Thanks, Imp Strump.

Hazel McCallion

Stephanie said...

I was thinking maybe North American cities need something more organic, more natural, more human,” he said.

The towers remind me of something from Gaudí. His work is so organic and fanciful. I have often lamented that we will never see work like his again. While I am not sure that the two are really comparebal, these towers makes me hopeful.

Incidentally, Gaudí would have solved the issue of the balconies...

laura k said...

The towers remind me of something from Gaudí.

I can't wait to go to Barcelona. It's our first stop on our next trip to Europe. Whenever that will be...

*whine*

Stephanie said...

While there Do expect to be pick-pocketed and take measures to avoid it. Obviously the best measure would be to avoid all tourist areas but that is highly unlikely on a first visit.

When you do finally find yourselves making those plans I would be happy to share all my notes on Spain with you.

:D

laura k said...

Well, that's pretty much the case when traveling, period. Rome and Naples are also supposed to be pickpocket capitals, along with the grabbing-bags-from-motorbikes technique.

When we make it Spain I will definitely get your notes! Hopefully my first good library job will get us there.

Stephanie said...

^comparable (not sure what happened up there...

Stephanie said...

Oh and have I mentioned the phenomenal librarians we know in Spain?

Oh and the efforts to preserve the books of the National library during the Spanish Civil War?

http://www.residencia.csic.es/jae/en/protagonistas/32_c.htm

New Nova Scotian said...

I love them. Modern buildings are too subservient to practicality and the dullness of business. These are beautiful. I love Toronto's City Hall as well. I remember first seeing it as a little boy and still it gives me such a sense continuity with the past (to present) and a foresight into a meaningful future.

New Nova Scotian said...

Laura, please delete last comment on Toronto City Hall. I was, of course, speaking of the wrong hall.
Thanks,
New Nova Scotian

laura k said...

I think the distinction between buildings and old buildings is too broad. There were plenty of crappy old buildings and there are many great new ones.

I love Toronto's old city hall. I'm not a huge fan of the current one, but I don't hate it.

I'll delete your comments if you want, but would rather leave them for discussion.

laura k said...

Stephanie, no, I didn't know that you had Spanish connections in la biblioteca. Cool!

impudent strumpet said...

Someone in something I read recently (and I totally forget who and where so I can't give credit where it's due) pointed out that all the crappy old buildings have been torn down, and only the good ones remain, whereas both good and bad new buildings are still around.