Among the greatest practitioners of what’s called the Toronto School of Architecture is David Pontarini, a founding partner of one of the leading design practices in this country, the eponymously named Hariri Pontarini Architects (HPA). (The other, of course, is Siamak Hariri.) Since its inception in 1994, HPA has won an endless string of awards for its beautifully executed modernist buildings that are notable for their exquisite attention to detail and their sensitivity to the urban context in which they’re placed. An earlier generation of architects like Barton Myers and Jack Diamond pioneered the Toronto School’s acute sensitivity to urban context, respect for heritage buildings and attention to proportions in designing new buildings. But Pontarini believes the scale of that has expanded. “Today we think about the framework of the entire city.” Modernism and urbanism have become one and the same.Nowhere has his concern for “context” been more evident than in his design for Rodeo Drive in Don Mills. Perhaps because modernism first took root in this country in “Canada’s first planned community,” Pontarini was eager to create a building that was “clean, simple and elegant” like such modernist masterpieces as Mies van der Rohe’s landmark Toronto Dominion Centre. Set on a podium, the Rodeo Drive tower rises 32 floors and is characterized by both a striking black-and-white colour palette and a minimalist materials palette evocative of the classic modernist motto, “less is more.” “We weren’t trying to do too much, so its simpleblack surfaces, perforated metal screens, some articulated pre-cast panels, and fritted white glass, all of which speak to a modernist design vocabulary.” Over the last decade Pontarini has designed some of the sleekest, most stunning glass towers that have become icons of Toronto’s recent condominium boom. Among them such skyscraping landmarks as the 76-storey One Bloor at Yonge and Bloor and the 60-storey Massey Tower presently rising on Yonge Street across from the Eaton Centre. “Rodeo Drive is a much more intimate building,” notes Pontarini, “because it has to fit into a different context, a low-rise retail context.” That is true, of course, but Rodeo Drive will still be the building in the precinct with the “towering” views over the green arcadia that distinguishes the Don Mills/Bridle Path neighbourhood, with park-like greenswards in every direction. “The city wasn’t keen to have the density on the outer edges of the shopping centre precinct which is why our site, in the centre of the development, received the density and the height.” Rodeo Drive residents with the sweeping park-like views will, of course, reap the rewards of that decision. “It is my hope that Rodeo Drive will be a clean modern fresh expression of this neig- hbourhood’s unique modernist architectural legacy.”
"We weren’t trying to do too much, so it’s simple black surfaces, perforated metal screens, some articulated pre-cast panels, and fritted white glass, all of which speak to a modernist design vocabulary."