Industrial ballet preserves 1960s IBM complex in North York
Prior to the completion of Eglinton Avenue. Before Macklin (Mack) Hancock delivered the modernist “New Town” of Don Mills to the town on behalf of Edward Plunket Taylor. And three whole decades before the release of the world’s first personal computer. This is how long IBM has been on the corner of Don Mills Road and Eglinton Avenue East.
In 1951, to be exact, the sprawling factory and headquarters opened on (mostly) dirt roads just north of the Fourth Concession (the future Eglinton) and waited for the city to catch up. The beautiful, stripped-down, stone-clad Art Deco / Classical building by Grimsby, Ontario-born Clare G. MacLean (1903-1973) was added in 1954 – to stretch the facade to 365 meters – then, in 1967, a completely new, the brick complex to the west accommodated even more high-tech employees.
A product of the heyday of the office campus, John B. Parkin Associates’ 1967 buildings hugged the ground as they zigzagged happily in response to their site, but, at just three and four floors, were equally capable to command a presence because they were perched on a natural ridge. While it might be rude to call them âautomotive architecture,â their 500-meter length and back-and-forth pace allowed the speedy drivers of Eglinton Avenue East to assimilate the makeup without distracting too much. of the road. To give more interest, faces of hot, iron brown bricks – from Belden Brick in Canton, Ohio – have been broken up by sets of thin, vertical windows placed asymmetrically, separated by thin pillars. A City of Toronto Heritage Report dated September 2016 suggests that the complex “can be seen as a more subtle and confident approach for IBM and a shift from Parkin Associates towards … a second wave of modernism that was more organic âwhich concerned theâ late works of Le Corbusier and Alvar Aalto â.
Today, while the MacLean Building waits to be reassembled at the northern end of the site, the 1967 complex (with additions in 1970-71) is being prepared, in situ, to be part of a huge residential, office and retail complex by Aspen Ridge Homes called “Crosstown”. While parts will be fully saved – and luxury suites inserted inside – in other areas, only a percentage of the original complex will remain to allow three elegant black towers to coexist on site. In some key areas, only a self-supporting wall will constitute a kind of âscreenâ which will protect both the public space and allow the continuity of the facade. This, says CORE director Babak Eslahjou, is “a romantic interpretation of the vestiges of the past.”
Visiting the site on an unusually warm November morning with CORE’s Kevin Saunders and Aspen Ridge site clerks Matthew Di Nicola and Zaharko Hrushewsky, this unique retention strategy is breathtaking. One minute our small group is inside a building looking at its exposed steel skeleton, while the next we emerge into the sun to see an isolated wall that is now held up by a massive structure in bridge shape.
Back inside another part of the complex, we climb an original staircase to check out what the views of residents on the third floor will look like. And, to be expected, they are quite something. With the downtown skyscrapers clearly visible through the currently unglazed openings, Saunders explains that the unique window shapes influenced those designed for the new towers: âWe sought to replicate this on the south faces and north; it is a defining characteristic of [Parkin] building to which we wanted to pay homage [but] not copy. And when State Windows’ new double-glazed units are placed in heritage buildings, they will be as precise as it getsâ¦ right down to the black steel spandrel panels.
âIt has been an incredible team effort,â Saunders said with a hat tip to engineers Jablonsky Ast & Partners and GBCA wealth consultants. “With everything that’s going on and so many different outside influences, trying to figure it out, it’s been a really amazing process.”
The process, from what I can tell, looks like an industrial ballet, as the delicate work of conservation (heritage) can be seen taking place just a few feet from where huge augers are probing the ground in anticipation. new deep foundations. In another area, huge piles of concrete blocks (old wall structures) were set aside for recycling: âThey set up a crushing platform elsewhere on the site. â¦ They can use it as loose coarse pellets elsewhere, because the entire site is 64 acres, there are 14 buildings, so everything is reused where we can, âsays Saunders.
And all of this, as we walk, is set to the music of jackhammers, warning beeps, the clack-clack-clack of winches and the roar of diesel engines.
Despite the uproar, I can’t help but sink into a sort of reverie as I walk: if this project had started, say, 15 or 20 years ago, would the Parkin buildings have been considered heritage? Remember, that’s when Toronto lost John C. Parkin’s head office in Bata, just down the street, and Peter Dickinson’s Inn on the Park. Is this city finally sensitive to the idea that heritage can be as much 1965 as 1865?
âI do not age the inheritance,â says Babak Eslahjou of CORE. âI think buildings must be of significant importance to be preserved. â¦ Preservation has become much stronger now and I love to see this force used for quality architectural pieces.
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