Cities that increase density by building skywards can inadvertently end up with impersonal streetscapes defined by monotonous walls of glass and concrete. Toronto has avoided the issue of dark, canyon-like streetscapes by mandating that buildings offer a human-scale street presence. Most large buildings are composed of a “podium” base, with towers receding from the street in steps as they grow upwards, allowing sunlight to filter through. But one developer, Brad Lamb, is tired of the monotonous wedding-cake aesthetic caused by codes that encourage “podiumism.”
He sees parks as a way to increase density without sacrificing beauty and creativity. This is a somewhat of a twist on the usual tension between density and open space, in which cities have to force developers to include parks as an offset to residential and commercial projects (in a future article, we’ll discuss Seattle’s Green Factor codes, which require new developments in dense areas to provide publicly accessible and visible landscaping).
In Toronto, Lamb wants to build a slender 47-story residential tower and replace the podium space of other towers with a tiny park (the entire lot is only 62 by 200 feet). The building is between two historic buildings and the park would feature a lawn, benches, and a fountain.
His plans, though, face some opposition from city planners. This is certainly not the first time that open space and density have struggled to coexist.