Earth & Conservation

'Parasitic' Condos Plan Would Add Wooden Apartments to Landmark Toronto Tower

A Canadian architectural firm has proposed bolting prefabricated lodgings for people to the 1,800-foot CN Tower in Toronto.

In 1993, science fiction author William Gibson published his acclaimed novel "Virtual Light," which imagines a future San Francisco after a major earthquake. The damaged Bay Bridge is gradually converted into a kind of suspended shanytown as desperate residents lash improvised shelters to the superstructure.

A Canadian architecture firm is proposing a variation on the sci-fi idea, in which prefabricated condos would be bolted to the outside of Toronto's landmark CN Tower.

The 1,800-foot communications spire, which for many decades stood as the world's largest freestanding structure, anchors Toronto's thriving tourist district and also serves as a communications hub for various media companies. But according to the proposal by design company Quadrangle, all of that vertical real estate would be better served with the addition of prefab wooden condos.

The proposal calls for parasitic residential structures - that's an actual architectural term - to be attached to the vertical concrete fins running up the sides of the tower. Each condominium would be constructed to customized specifications and affixed to spots that take advantage of windbreaks on the fins.

According to an interesting breakdown at the architectural journal Dezeen, the parasitic structures would be made principally from cross-laminated timber (CLT), a kind of engineered wood that's strong enough for heavy construction but much lighter than steel or concrete.

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The prefab CLT units would be assembled offsite in factories, then transported and snapped into place on the tower. Outward facing windows would look out over the city, providing an instant room with a view.

"Quadrangle saw an opportunity to reinvigorate the tower with desirable market condominiums, in an excellent location with unparalleled views, while maintaining the building's existing and successful functions," said Quadrangle principal Richard Witt in a press release.

Presumably, residents would be use the CN Towers' existing internal staircases and the external elevators that run up the side of the structure. Concept images suggest additional external staircases would connect units to one another, and to openings that access the tower's hollow, hexagonal core. Power and plumbing connections run through that core, so the parasitic units would presumably patch into them, as well.

If that all seems like a lot of supposition, bear in mind that the CN Tower plan is squarely in the architectural tradition of dreaming up radical ideas for their own sake. Actually implementing the concept would involve approximately 12 gazillion issues from the practical to the political. But hey, never hurts to dream big, right?

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