News from CNW Group

Monday, January 30, 2006

TORONTO, Jan. 30 /CNW/ - There is one thing Danny Salvatore and Sam Crignano agree on: When it comes to condominiums, great design truly matters.

Mr. Salvatore, president of Fernbrook Homes and Mr. Crignano, a principal in Cityzen Development Group, have put their money where their beliefs are. They jointly sponsored a ground-breaking international architectural design competition for the fourth tower at their new Absolute Community in Mississauga.

While the design call drew more than 600 inquiries, 92 firms from every continent wound up submitting design proposals. From among them a blue-ribbon panel of judges has selected six finalists:

    1. Nicholas Boyarsky, Boyarsky Murphy Architects; United Kingdom

    2. Michel Rojkind, rojkind arquitectos; Mexico

    3. Roland Rom Colthoff, Quadrangle Architects Limited; Canada

    4. Sebastian Messer, Studio MWM; United Kingdom

    5. Yansong Ma, MAD office; United States of America

    6. Tarek El-Khatib, Zeidler Partnership Architects; Canada

Each will be awarded an honourarium to help underwrite the cost of preparing final design submissions; the winner will be awarded the contract to create a 50-plus storey tower on the northeast corner of Hurontario Street and Burnhamthorpe Road, the anchor for the pair's successful new Absolute Community located at the most important crossroads in Mississauga.

Why go to the trouble? Why spend the money? Why search the world for bold, innovative ideas?

"We believe strongly that there are both aesthetic and commercial benefits to great design," says Mr. Salvatore. "Above all, great design endures and creates lasting value and that is what we want to create for our customers, the families who will make Absolute their home."

The GTA condominium market has matured, he says. With maturity comes increased levels of buyer sophistication and knowledge.

"As the market changes, those in our industry who will continue to be successful will be builders who recognize the value that excellent design brings to projects," says Mr. Crignano.

Days are gone when builders could erect projects, which were little more than reworked apartment buildings, series of rectangular bays stacked on atop the other, he says.

Condominiums are intrinsically different from rental units, he adds. "Rentals are intended for shorter term stays, for a more mobile market. Condominiums must reflect the demands of permanency," he says. "Look at European markets. In major centres across the continent, more families own condominiums than lowrise homes and they become part of a family's legacy. For that to happen here we simply must pursue excellence in design and in quality of craftsmanship and materials."

A landmark project must also deliver benefits to neighborhoods, communities and the cities they represent, the pair says.

There is another reason for staging an open international competition, says Antonio Gomez-Palacio, a partner in Office for Urbanism Inc., the planning and design firm retained to oversee the competition.

The open nature of this competition has meant that young, innovative architects have been able to compete on the same footing as old established firms, he says. "There was no requirement for things like CVs or portfolios of past work. The aim was to attract the broadest possible spectrum of architectural talent."

Mr. Gomez-Palacio says the result is 92 of the world's top designers working on the challenge instead of the handful that a competition based on invitations would bring.

"You have almost a hundred of the brightest minds in the field submitting their ideas," he says. "In international architectural circles this has been a near historic event. Not only was it an open competition but an open competition for a condominium tower, sponsored by private not public interests."

The Absolute partners hope is that the competition will also introduce to Canada, design and construction techniques and materials new to the market.

"Developers tend to have blinkered vision, a situation forced on them by circumstances," says Mr. Salvatore. "We believe approaching this project in this fashion will prove a breath of fresh air, a new window onto the latest trends and techniques in other cities, other nations."

As both men agree, great design matters and their support of a groundbreaking way to approach condominium design simply smoothes the path.

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