If Only Toronto’s CN Tower could be transformed…

... into the city’s most innovative residential high-rise, says Richard Witt, principle of Quadrangle.

As the world’s tallest tower and freestanding structure for 34 years, from its construction in 1976 until it was exceeded in height by the Burj Khalifa and the Canton Tower in 2010, the CN Tower lost not only its record but also its symbolism as a global icon of height and progress.

Thus, our studio proposes a vision to reconceptualise the radio communications tower, tourist attraction and Toronto landmark, by making it the city’s most coveted and innovative residential address. As a city that has enjoyed many identities, from trading outpost to the start-up and entertainment capital that it is today, Toronto has consistently adapted to historic, social and technological change. Our vision to add modular wood residential units to the sides of the CN Tower follows the city’s tradition of reinvention and exploration.

We see an opportunity to reinvigorate the tower with desirable market condominiums, in an excellent location with unparalleled views, while maintaining the building’s existing and successful functions. We developed preliminary designs for the tower with modular condo units constructed from Cross Laminated Timber (CLT). Quickly becoming the most important building material of the 21st century due to its powerful structural sustainable and versatile properties, CLT offers a vastly smaller carbon footprint than steel or concrete.

Since CLT buildings are designed in panels that are made in factories, and snapped into place onsite, the construction will be quick and safe, having no negative impact on tourist traffic. Its versatility will enable the aspiring CN Tower condo dweller to purchase a unit made-to-order from a range of layouts that can accommodate multiple lifestyles and personal choices. The beauty of the wood finish enables the panels to comprise both the structure and interior finish – ensuring that these highly innovative structures have the robust beauty of an old-growth timber building.

We hope that the design’s versatility inspires similar projects on other large-scale, freestanding, developments globally, increasing the value they bring to their home cities and environments.

Richard Witt

As a design principal at Quadrangle in Toronto and the director of its Shanghai office, Richard leads teams responsible for the design of complex and sustainable projects at diverse scales. From large masterplans to midrise urban infill, his commitment to an agenda of accretive city building encompasses residential, retail and workplace uses that drive commercial objectives and are recognised for their design excellence. In addition to city building, he is actively engaged in the design industry as mentor and leader – Witt previously held the role of chairman of the Toronto Society of Architects and is a fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada.

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