Slow condo praised
A suite in Freed Developments’ 75 Portland has been lauded as a Slow Home
Tracy Hanes – Toronto Star
Charles Gane is proud to be slow.
Gane and Core Architects, the firm he’s a partner in, have been honoured by the Slow Home Project, which is surveying new residential design in nine North American cities. The best apartment/loft design in Toronto winner was a condo suite Gane designed for Freed Developments’, at 75 Portland Ave.
The findings were based on a survey of 588 new housing units in the GTA conducted by the Slow Home online community, with apartment/loft, townhouse and single detached homes categories; overall, 63% of new GTA residential projects fail to meet the minimum design quality threshold defined by a Slow Home test.
Slow Home, founded by Calgary architects John Brown (a professor of architecture at the University of Calgary) and Matthew North, is a social movement advocating for better designed houses (www.theslowhome.com). It was inspired by the slow food movement and is based on the belief that most mass produced houses and neighborhoods are like fast food — standardized, homogenized, and bad for people and the environment.
A slow home is defined as a place that is simple to live in, light on the environment, and benefits the lives of the people who reside in it.
After 20 years of “seeing really bad suburban design and helping hundreds of people find better places to live,” Brown developed the concept after his chef sister told him about slow food. He saw the parallels between food and housing production and says both are integral to people’s well being, and both industries have exploited basic human needs for marketing purposes.
“Houses are designed to be sold, not lived in, and the detailing of houses is designed to making them compelling to buy, just like a bag of Doritos,” says Brown. He says those “compelling” features include things like tiny, windowless dens in condos and cavernous foyers with tiny closets in detached homes, and don’t make for practical living.
He and North developed a website which educates visitors about good design, as well as offers critiques and invites comments on floor plans people submit.
For the survey, Brown and North invited their online community to scour the Internet for new home sale sites in the cities, evaluate floor plans based on the standardized Slow Home test, and submit their findings. People from around the globe participated.
“It’s been a crazy ride, trying to do nine cities in nine months,” says Brown.
Gane had never heard of the slow home movement until he learned he’d designed the condo/loft Toronto winner. The one-bedroom suite has no corridors, plenty of windows and a large balcony.
“It was a really unique design because of where it was in a courtyard,” says Gane. “It hit all the right buttons with them. We try to give every unit a measure of efficiency and try to provide a large living and dining area. This unit had 100% space utilization and it was wide and shallow. We just designed it to be a really nice living space.”
“This is a small residence but Core Architects created a very sensitive open plan configuration combined with a large amount of glazing to create a home that works really well,” says Brown. “This unit typifies the slow home philosophy of simplicity and lightness, and will be a great place in which to live.”
Seventy5 Portland is a 216-unit midrise condo building in the King West district. It scored 17 out of a possible 20 points on the slow home report card; the only area it didn’t make the grade on was natural light; “because it faces a courtyard, it doesn’t get a lot of sunlight,” says Gane.
The finishing touches are being put on the building, which has been painted bright white and “some people have palm trees out on their balconies, like they’re in Miami,” says Gane. “The building has a real hotel feel. We’re pretty happy with it.”
Ironically, slow home also did a survey in Miami and didn’t give out any awards in that city because the design quality was so poor, says Brown.