Reason to Love Toronto: Because suburban architecture just got a lot sexier

Reason to Love Toronto: Because suburban architecture just got a lot sexier

(Image: Derek Shapton) 

The hyperbolically named Absolute World towers at Burnamthorpe and Hurontario are the tallest, most confounding buildings in the empire of sprawl, and quite possibly the most graceful condos ever erected in the GTA. When they are completed in the spring, they’ll top out at 50 and 56 floors, with each oblong level sitting at a slightly different rotation than the storey beneath it. Like a deck of cards meticulously fanned out from the centre, the structures have a sinuous and undulating profile.

The brain behind the curves is a 35-year-old Beijing architect named Yansong Ma, who beat out 91 other architects in a competi­tion held by the developers, Fernbrook Homes and Cityzen. Having trained under two of the world’s most innovative designers (Zaha Hadid and Peter Eisenman), Ma has earned the status of an up-and-coming starchitect. Playfully riffing on cold modernist architecture, he imbues his work with organic shapes, and his lilting towers read as a rebuke to Toronto’s parade of boring glass boxes.

The towers are located near Square One, in an area that falls within the boundaries of Mississauga’s Downtown 21 plan. The goal of the project, which will span the next two decades, is to give this yawning suburb, sprung from 1960s car culture, a compact, pedestrian-ruled core. The inescapable proximity of the 403’s eight-lane traffic casts some doubts on that ambition, but Ma’s daring design signals an optimistic beginning to a 21st-century city.