Among the many considerations when you’re condominium shopping is the exterior of the building. Buyers usually judge architecture on whether or not they like it; that’s natural. You may see beauty in a sleek, modern tower that screams “less is more,” or a traditional building with ornate masonry trim. You may also be swayed by what you read and hear in the media. Many critics and politicians have been hard on Toronto’s condominium architecture, blaming what they see as shortcomings on the builder/developers.

I sometimes wonder whether those who downgrade these design decisions have thought through the realities of why buildings look the way they do. If it was simply a case of an architectural vision on the part of the developer, I’m sure things would be different. Truth is, many players have a say in how a condominium is designed, and the resulting architecture is the result of a cooperative effort.

When a building is being designed, the developer has to take into consideration city- and site-specific bylaws regarding traffic, shadowing and shading, angular planes, streetscapes, pedestrian-friendly podiums, height restrictions, the massing of buildings and other elements before being given the go-ahead to market and construct it. There may be limitations on how much of the property the building can cover, how far it is situated from the street or adjacent buildings, and whether or not it will obstruct the views of current residents — especially on the waterfront.


The city’s planning and urban design departments consult with the developer and architect, and once a site plan application is made, local ratepayers are often invited to offer input.

You can see how a developer’s original vision for a building can end up quite different after all is said and done.

Cost also plays a part. Many of the items that make a building aesthetically pleasing are more expensive. Going from pre-cast to glass involves a substantial hike in cost, so buyers who want and expect that level of materials must be prepared to pay for it.

Ask yourself what’s important to you. Sure, you want to drive up to your condominium and see a beautiful exterior, but you also want a suite that surrounds you in well-laid-out living spaces and includes quality features. Sometimes it’s a case of picking and choosing appointments according to what builder/developers know purchasers will be willing to pay for.

Remember, beauty is more than skin deep — your condominium choice should be pleasing to you both outside and in, so you feel at home.

That’s what the builder/developer wants, too, and works hard to accomplish.

Linda Mitchell is Vice-President of Marketing, High-Rise for Monarch Corporation. In 2005, Linda was presented with the coveted OHBA SAMMY (Sales and Marketing Member of the Year) award. In 2003, she received the Riley Brethour Award acknowledging outstanding and consistent professional achievement in residential sales and marketing.

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