Back in the late 1990s, when the current boom of condo construction began in Toronto, almost every building had “traditional” features. That word was used loosely, since it’s hard to classify awkward 15-storey buildings with concrete structure, stucco cladding and aluminum windows in any particular tradition. But you know the style or styles: the fake quoins, the fake mansard roofs, the fake French balconies, the fake limestone and fake-aged concrete paving stones.
They are ridiculous: Frankenstein collages of pre-20th-century styles and forms onto 20th-century building technology. They look bad and they will age badly, just as the postmodernist pastiches of the 1980s are doing right now.
I thought that, in downtown Toronto, we were done with all this. The condo market now seems to demand modernist design – which even if it is derivative is, at least, harking back to the high modernist skyscrapers of the 1960s. When it is bad – and it is almost always cheaply built and poorly detailed - at least it’s not as bad as the worst buildings of 1987 and 1997.
But I was wrong. History repeats itself.