The other week we featured a brief overview of the similarities and differences between the City of Toronto and Hong Kong, illustrating how learning from the success and failures of others is a great way of making educated decisions and, in turn, building great cities.
This week we’ll look at another one of the world’s great cities: Chicago. Toronto-Chicago comparisons have been popping up in the media a fair bit recently. Take for example this piece from a culinary perspective in Toronto Life, or this one in the Toronto Star. Why is it that these two cities practically beg to be compared? Aside from being official sister cities, Toronto and Chicago are both dense urban centres surrounded by suburbs, and both boast a lakefront. But let’s see how their high rise markets stack up.
Chicago is the third-largest city in the United States and it’s well-known for its architecture and especially for its tall buildings. In fact, its skyline is home to the country’s two tallest towers – the Willis Tower (better known by its former name, the Sears Tower) and the Trump Tower Chicago.
Standing 442 metres high, the Willis Tower is the tallest building in the western hemisphere, although Torontonians can boast that the CN Tower is still the West’s tallest free-standing structure at 553 metres in height. As for the Trump Tower, the real estate mogul has recently erected one in Toronto as well, albeit at 277 metres, our version falls short of the 423 metres reached by its Chicago counterpart. Nonetheless, Trump Tower is the second tallest skyscraper in Canada and the tallest mixed-use building in Toronto.
After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the city experienced the largest building boom in U.S. history, later resulting in one of the world’s tallest and densest skylines which now features a mix of historic commercial skyscrapers and new residential towers.
What really stands out about the Chicago skyline is the individuality in each of the buildings. To this date, the architecture in the city continues to impress both the general public and industry pros. BILD held a housing tour in Chicago a few years ago, sending a number of industry professionals to study the city and see if some of its practices could be applied to the way we build in the GTA.
No doubt one of the most impressive examples of recent innovation is Aqua – an 82-story mixed-use residential tower in the city’s downtown core. Completed in 2010, the tower is most recognizable for its unique look, featuring wave-like balconies. The building’s design is said to serve an environmental purpose and is built to LEED certification. Already a winner of several awards, it is also the tallest building in the world designed by a woman.
I suppose it is the GTA equivalent of Absolute World – better known as the Marilyn Monroe Towers for their hourglass-shaped exteriors. Completed between 2010 and 2012, these instantly recognizable buildings have become a landmark in the City of Mississauga.
It’s hard not to draw parallels between Chicago and the GTA, and as I look back a full decade, I can’t help but notice how far we have come to building great cities that rival some of the world’s best.