The Missing Middle_A resilient housing strategy for strengthening the commercial strip along the avenues with middle density typologies in a search for a post-suburbanity.
Nik Vandewyngaerde @ Catholic University of Leuven & Daniels Faculty of Architecture – University of Toronto [Promotor : Ward Verbakel, Co-promotors: Tom Thys, Yuri Gerrits]
Toronto’s post-war suburban expansion has lead to a car-based urbanity that consists of two extremes in terms of density: the mono functional high-rise apartments and the unsustainable single family housing. “The Missing Middle*” is a term that refers to the absence of an in-between scale in Toronto, a missing scale, when countered well, believed to be the key to strengthen its under-built avenues.
After “the great inversion”, a period where the industry started leaving Toronto, the white middle class society got replaced by a poorer multicultural society, that are more reliable on public transport. This is one of the reasons that Toronto made a multi-billion investment in an LRT system along its avenues, in order to improve the poor transport-network and intensify the sub-urban fabric. These investments also induces new transit-oriented development to anticipate the expected demographic growth. This is envisioned by the city as profitable, rather oversized mid-rise buildings that further highlighted the separation between the avenues and the suburbs.
This graduation project proposes to counter this mid-rise strip approach with a housing strategy that envisions this transit investment as a unique opportunity to rethink the suburban tissue towards a post-sub-urbanity. An urbanity that wants to evolve towards denser, more affordable and more resilient suburbs, using local post-industrial plots (like the Golden mile), which will act as a catalyst to revitalize the suburban landscape.
This urban strategy will be demonstrated through a design proposal on a site suffering from profit development pressure, situated on Eglinton Avenue. The project/process rethinks the over-sized mid-rise envelope, releasing pressure by spreading the density with a certain porosity scaling down towards the residential fabric. Not only the urban form, but also the architecture of the facades tries to define this transition. It becomes a very dense interplay amongst compact, yet adaptable typologies, in order to find the true limits of a stronger and more affordable housing community.
Who influences you graphically?
Every project is unique and is approached differently, therefor the way I graphically represent my work will differ. Often I ask myself what the image in question wants to express, and if the technique Iusing succeeds in doing so. This means I am constantly looking for new projects and ways to represent architecture in order to broaden my own graphic perspective. In general some Belgian offices like Bas Smets, Office KGDVS, Dogma have been an inspiration to my work. Lately I have been inspired by the sharp representation style that is applied in the top Swiss architecture schools.
What defined the way you choose to frame and photograph the model?
The facade model was a perfect medium to define several concepts of my project. I needed a medium that showed that the transition of geology, colors and materiality. The clearest (and the best) way to that was to take a picture that behaves as an perspectival elevation that emphasize these transitions.
What was the effect of using this as a base to then collage silhouettes?
Normally I keep visualizations and models separated. Although time pressure pushed me to mix these two medium. You reach a certain unknown reality, that you can’t reach with collaged renders and also develop an certain atmosphere that I think pure models sometimes lack.
What defined the construction of interior images? from the materiality to the objects? How do these represent and reveal the lives of their owners?
The suburbanization was a reaction to the need for housing after the post-war baby-boom and has led to standardization within the building process. Unlike Europe, the ornament within architecture was considered important. Unfortunately most of these ornaments were purely aesthetic without a soul or meaning. A copy-paste architecture arrived with barely any identity and unable to tell a story about time or place. As to speak, the only indicator, in order to have an understanding of time on a picture, are the cars.
With the building transformation in Toronto, that is lurking around the corner, it could be interesting to not only react to the copy-paste architecture of the past, but also the glass and steel architecture of the future. In no time concrete slabs are stacked, which actually show some tectonic honesty, are then wrapped by glass curtain walls.
I wanted to resist to this uprooted approach of designing and focus on using the full capacity of tectonics in a facade, where it expresses the construction, but doesn’t reveal it. I applied stratification as a medium to create a certain tectonic geology of a facade in order to express and define its surroundings. Rhythm and proportion of the facades are practiced to strengthen and legitimatize this intermediate scale. The profoundness in tectonics follows the same transition as the urban scale towards the residential fabric.
This is not a story about referring to an architecture style, nor referring to the past or future. It is trying to transcend the physical world and is trying to reach the subconsciousness of people. I emphasize that there is room for personal interpretation. I don’t want, nor can I impose a specific sentiment, but I hope I can sparkle an overall feeling.
How important was the notion of the facade as threshold between interior and exterior? As a surface which both reveals and conceals, how did you use this to depict specific interior conditions?
As I mentioned in my previous answer, I wanted to react to the richly ornamented suburban architecture that didn’t show any tectonics in the façade. Tectonics is defined in many ways and one of them is when the facade expresses the construction, the movement, life inside, but doesn’t reveal it. For example the red façade has a very strong and static character. It wants to withstand the movement and noise of the avenues. When you look at it in a constructional way you feel the where the loads are transferred, but it also doesn’t really want to reveal itself. This also translates itself into the interiors as the typologies are for stable families that are planning to stay for a longer time. Every façade has its tectonical story and plays its part in defining the community.
In addition to the views what role does the plan hold as only orthogonal projection through which the project is drawn?
I wanted to keep one line through the whole project by working as orthogonal as possible. In doing so I tried to create depth in the plans by detailing every wall and playing with the line weights and greyscales.