Can ‘radical pragmatism’ shake up Canada’s boring urbanism?

Can ‘radical pragmatism’ shake up Canada’s boring urbanism?
MVRDV’s work bears a sensibility they call ‘radical pragmatism.’

Canada: Why do your new buildings all look the same?

That is the question posed by Dutch architect Nathalie de Vries. When she arrived in Toronto recently for a lecture at Ryerson University, the partner in the firm MVRDV was struck by the “generic” quality of the new construction that is reshaping much of the city’s downtown.

“I want to ask, what are you building here?” she said, as we sat in a borrowed office surrounded by the cranes and construction cacophony of the King-Spadina neighbourhood. “What kind of city are you building, and for whom? What is your vision for the future?”

That’s a tough question. A single building type, the condominium “point tower” bred in Vancouver, is rising relentlessly in Toronto as in most of Canada’s major cities – and yet despite the best efforts of Toronto’s planners, downtown streetscapes remain chaotic even as many new buildings are bland. Could there be another way to build? Is there room for some wild cards? […]