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Architects love sharp lines and modern design. They like crisp edges and clean slates. However, their admiration for geometric –esque buildings doesn’t mean that they don’t appreciate the softer, more lively things. In other words, just because architects are the masterminds behind skyscrapers doesn’t mean they can’t also value a balance – they, for instance, might be tree-huggers who just happen to have a special place in their heart for wood stacked neatly with a purpose. In fact, more often than ever before, nature is a factor in the world of architecture. There are gardens to consider, public spaces to plan, and,not to mention, environmental crisis to curb.

Case in point is one of the most recent proposed skyscrapers for one of the world’s most major cities – Toronto. Toronto is a notoriously clean city. The streets, in comparison with some of the other big cities, like New York or Chicago, look pristine and new. Still, though, it’s a city through and through – and that means lots of tall buildings, metal meeting the sky, and a general lack of greenery. The latest proposal for a sky high building, though, combines the cities larger than life needs with some shrubbery. Already nicknamed the “Timber Tower,” the unique proposal has made waves in the architecture world.

The name for the tower is fitting many times over. First, the tower’s proposed design has it looking like a tree looming high above the streets – with uniquely layered balconies giving it a dynamic feel (not to mention providing most everyone inside with the best possible views) mean to mimic branches. Beyond that, all of the balconies will be covered in greenery, causing the building to double as a visible garden for the city. Last, but not least, the name fits due to the fact that if completed as intended, the tower will be built out of cross-laminated timber.

The proposed project is a result of a collaboration between Penda, an architecture firm with offices out of China and Austria, and TMBR, a Canadian company. The building would stand 62 meters tall (203 feet), featuring 18 stories of layered, modular residential blocks. One of Penda’s partners, Chris Precht, spoke to Dezeen magazine on the inspiration behind this different take on a skyscraper, saying:

“Our cities are a assembly of steel, concrete, and glass. If you walk through the city and suddenly see a tower made of wood and plants, it will create an interesting contrast. The warm, natural appearance of wood and the plants growing on its façade bring the building to life and that could be a model for environmental friendly developments and sustainable extensions of our urban landscape.”


This is not the firm’s first time matchmaking architecture with plants. Already on their list of rad proposals is a bamboo hotel, a tower in India with heavy garden influences, and more. This particular building would fall under Canada’s efforts in timber-framed tall building construction. If it meets certain carbon footprint standards (which is highly likely), the government would even go so far as to provide 10-20% of the funding necessary for completion.

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Once it stands upright, the building would give the city roughly 53, 800 square feet to play with. A lot of that space would go toward creating residential units, with a smaller, leftover portion dedicated to public spaces such as a café, daycare center, and a place for community workshops. On the large outdoor terraces featured up and down the building, there will be ample vegetation systems that will be home to shrubbery, trees, and even small gardens.

What a breath of fresh air for architecture – quite literally, with a lower carbon footprint, ecological benefits, and a special draw to nature. Take note, DC architects, take note – and keep it fresh.

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