The Home is a Place for Living: Fifteen Conversations About Inhabitation, Adaptation, and the Rehabilitation of Toronto’s Post-War Apartment Buildings
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Toronto is home to one of North America’s largest stock of postwar residential towers, which house nearly a million people in over a thousand towers across the GTHA. Built throughout the postwar population and economic boom of the 1960s for an emerging middle class, these modernist structures have become the defining typology of the city’s most isolated and inaccessible suburbs. Now thirty years past their intended lifespan, Toronto’s ageing towers currently house a majority of the city’s low-income residents in isolated, dilapidated complexes estranged from the city-at-large. Working alongside research conducted by the Tower Renewal Partnership, a cross-professional effort spearheaded by ERA Architects, this thesis explores how the architectural revitalization of these sites can help facilitate adaptable, self-sufficient neighbourhoods that prioritize notions of tenant ownership and agency within oftentimes hostile, inherited environments. Post-war, low-income housing developments are subjected to narratives of seemingly inevitable cycles of decline and demolition; the towers’ physical deterioration serving as a misrepresentation of actual daily life within these sites. These misrepresentations contribute to feelings of resident alienation and disempowerment, further exacerbating the physical degeneration of many of these tower neighbourhoods. Through interviews with residents, conversations with key community advocates, and typological site analysis, this research presents a methodology for revitalization. In environments where the scale of the architecture often overwhelms ideas of individual desire and agency, this research explores how to mediate the dissonance between hyper-density and the realities of domestic life. Through the renegotiation of previously overlooked spatial thresholds—balconies, corridors, and empty parking lots—the project examines how these liminal spaces can serve as a tool for user appropriation and activation. Using North York’s Falstaff Towers as a testing ground for architectures of agency, this thesis investigates how a series of key design interventions can help reconnect Toronto’s post-war towers on two scales: that of the resident and that of the community.
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Kate Elizabeth Brownlie (2021). The Home is a Place for Living: Fifteen Conversations About Inhabitation, Adaptation, and the Rehabilitation of Toronto’s Post-War Apartment Buildings. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/17453