Building for the Condo Kids Generation / by ZAS ARCHITECTS

In a drive for higher density, it follows that the amenities of the suburbs must now be constructed for the highrise communities.


The last ten years have seen a massive sea-change in the way we live and grow in our urban centres in Canada and nowhere is this as evident as in Toronto’s downtown. Around 66 per cent of chidren in downtown Toronto live in mid rise and high-rise buildings.

Since the last census in 2011, there were 10,500 more Toronto families with children living in condos, up to 129,000 from 118,000. The growth of these condo families (8.9 per cent) was more than double the growth of families (3.9 per cent) in the region.

That is a huge number of Canadians who have turned their backs on the traditional single-family home and embraced the car-free, walkable lifestyle of the urban vertical community.

This signals the need for a new model for city builders. We can’t make the same assumptions about our end users as we have done in the past. Communities like City Place are no longer just for adults and this new demographic needs all the same facilities and play spaces as kids growing up in a suburban single-family home.

In a drive for higher density downtown, it follows that the infrastructure and amenities usually reserved for the suburbs must now be constructed for the highrise communities that the majority of young people call home, which is why the Canoe Landing campus is such a landmark project for Toronto.

When ZAS Architects were first approached with the prospect of designing a 3.32-acre hub for City Place in Toronto, we were excited by the challenge it presented. This is an opportunity like no other to create a true downtown, high density community for a new generation.

Canoe Landing Campus will house a $65 million community recreation centre, public and Catholic elementary schools and a childcare centre within one innovative campus.

For over 20 years, the City Place vertical community developed one block at a time with high-density residential towers emerging around a centrally planned park. Within this park, now called Canoe Landing Park, a new social campus will merge with the landscape, completing the community with educational and public amenities absent since development began in the 1990s.

Serving an important social function, the campus architecture supports a new platform for connection. In a vertical, urban community where neighbours often experience solitary lifestyles, this interaction is vital. Conceived as a social condenser, the building program was developed through multiple community meetings attended by hundreds of residents.

From the first public meeting packed with strollers and young families, it was clear this community had very unique needs resulting from a wide demographic range, the realities of living with less square footage, and the pressures on existing public space as the population grew with each new tower constructed.

Faced with the challenges presented, ZAS Architects created an original architectural form that leveraged the synergies of co-locating the schools, community centre and childcare to reduce the building footprint and maximize open space. The new campus provides an opportunity for shared community spaces – from gardening plots to basketball courts on the roof, spaces for indoor and outdoor play, a community kitchen for canning parties and cooking classes, and a lobby space for neighbours to meet neighbours.

Sustainability is one of the key concepts that we kept coming back to during the design process. In a flip of the site’s former industrial use we ensured that the campus incorporated the latest sustainable practices from an active green roof to reduce the overall footprint of the buildings by condensing and sharing.

Community input generated innovative spaces such as indoor play areas geared to enhancing children’s motor skills and the creation of multi-purpose rooms that adapt to both active and passive uses. The community also wanted the new building to be green, reducing environmental impacts and to be resilient, providing a shelter in case of power failure or natural disaster.

Programming offers expanded possibilities for all ages. The schools share indoor play spaces, a learning commons, gymnasium and educational areas. The outdoor park and community rooms are accessible by all. A flexible design solution features two- and three-storey buildings that anchor the east side of the park. C-shaped planning maximizes solar access while sheltering play areas from the adjacent expressway. Bisected by a pedestrian corridor, the building connects through an elevated bridge forming an east-west gateway. One side of this link contains the community centre with gymnasium and fitness centre.

It was through this community-orientated approach to design that we were able to come up with a plan that should result in ab exciting urban neighbourhood. We hope that Canoe Landing Campus will become the inspiring playground for the next generation of vertical living pioneers.