22.7.05

A Tall Paradox

Read some interesting Toronto articles today, Lofty Plans for Replacing Planetarium and A Housing Plan that's Just Right. Here is an interesting paradox for you:

1) Toronto has a fear of tall buildings.
2) Toronto loves tall buildings and has more of than than all but six of the world's cities.

How can both be true?

The first is well-known from various civic fights over tall buildings. Lop a few floors off here, a few more there.

The second comes from this table at . Toronto is #7 on the planet for sheer number of tall buildings within city limits, where a tall building is defined as anything over 12 stories. That's more than Chicago, more than any city in Europe, more than Sydney, Houston...

Rank City Population Area Buildings Points
1. Hong Kong 6,787,000 1,001 km² 7,435 115,066
2. New York 8,104,079 800 km² 5,455 35,636
3. Seoul 10,331,244 616 km² 2,835 15,790
4. Chicago 2,862,244 589 km² 1,045 15,463
5. Singapore 3,437,300 685 km² 3,503 13,147
6. Bangkok 7,587,882 1,569 km² 711 11,105
7. Tokyo 8,130,408 621 km² 2,107 9,255
8. Shanghai 9,145,711 6,639 km² 549 8,517
9. São Paulo 10,600,060 1,525 km² 3,023 7,857
10. Toronto 2,481,494 630 km² 1,623 6,701

Toronto clearly punches above its weight in the world league of skylines. And yet, the table also shows that Toronto's buildings are not supertall. The city has far more "tall" buildings than places like Shanghai but they must be far shorter on average, resulting in fewer points in the scoring scheme used in the table above (see the table link for explanation). Compare to Chicago - same population, area, and 50% fewer tall buildings, but twice the score!

My theory is that Toronto is the city of the bulky 25 storey tower. Big enough to annoy anti-tall groups, but too short to please the populace with bold architectural expression and encourage more tall development. As pointed out in Ms. Gadd's article, there is also a very low number of buildings 6-11 stories tall (not reflected in the table above), which leaves the city feeling more suburban in attitude.

A fascinating situation - I wonder which argument will prevail? I am, of course, voting for supertall.

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