Usually on Houseporn, we stick with highlighting built spaces over speculative projects, but this recent proposal by Toronto studio Quadrangle Architects, seems worthy of making an exception.
Taking the city’s most iconic building as its site, Quadrangle suggests populating (quite literally) the CN Tower with numerous pre-fabricated residential pods.
The units that make up this parasitic architectural project, would be constructed of structural cross-laminated timber panels (exposed on the interior), and suspended from the wind-shielding wings of the existing structure.
For more on engineered wood products, see our past post titled Williamson Chong Creates Beautiful Features in Laminated Wood.
While there’s certainly some unresolved details of how this project would play out (access to the units being the most obvious), there’s something compelling and very timely about the concept of making use of the building in this way. Constructed in 1976 as a media and communications tower, it’s come to be best known as a tourist destination. As housing becomes an increasingly challenging issue to address in Toronto, this proposal-as-probe raises interesting questions around how our architectural identity reflects the values of place and how we might direct more focus to the role of a city as a place of dwelling, not just commerce.
The term "parasitic architecture” began to gain hold somewhere in the timeframe of 2010-2012, with many projects both built and speculative, suggesting approaches to adaptive reuse of existing structures as an alternative to tearing down and building something entirely anew. While there’s some advantages to this tactic in terms of sustainability, it’s the preservation of a sense of history - a palpability to the idea of city as palimpsest, that truly gives them their appeal.
But this parasitic approach was evident in Toronto long before this term was being applied to it. Think of other iconic public building such as the ROM with its Daniel Libeskind addition of the AGO with its Frank Gehry remodelling. But it’s also apparent across many of Toronto’s less flashy projects, many of which are residential redevelopments within previously commercial-only areas of the downtown core.
Now, as the Province begins implementing new regulatory changes (taking effect April 24) aimed at forming a better understanding of whether residential properties are being purchased as homes or investments and the influence of foreign buyers, but seen as many as an unnecessary added complication to real estate transaction, it layers another notion onto the interpretation of Quadrangle’s project. While gaining reliable, quantitative information is essential to informing discussions about the housing market moving forward, what role might architects and designers play in initiating dialog around the topic too?
Read about Architecture for Affordability in Canada
This article was written and researched by Miranda Corcoran, who began writing for Houseporn while studying Industrial Design and Digital Media at OCAD University.