Recap – 31st Annual Mississauga Urban Design Awards

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The nominees for the 31st Annual Mississauga Urban Design Awards – the longest-running municipal urban design awards program in Ontario – ran the gamut, from public buildings, to a hockey arena, to a newly built gas station, to a condo project, personal residences, libraries, parks and, of course, the world famous ‘Marilyn’ tower.

And the winners were the iconic, spectacular ‘Marilyn’ skyscraper, a trio of redeveloped Mississauga City libraries and a place for college students to gather, learn and experience downtown Mississauga.

If Mississauga was once a city of monochromatic housing developments, strip malls, gas bars and boring, box-like architecture in the downtown core, the 31st edition of the MUD awards, showed a city on the ascendency – at least when it comes to cutting-edge design.

The MUD awards also honoured The Civic Centre, a postmodernist icon featured in Mississauga’s logo, and opened in July 1987.  Michael Kirkland, one of the two architects on the team that won the national architectural competition for the design of the building, was a featured speaker at the event, along with architect George Baird, who served as the professional advisor to the jury that chose the winning submission.

“We’re not a suburban city anymore,” said Ward 1 Councillor Jim Tovey, a judge at this year’s competition. “When we do complete this city, we’ll make it the best city in Canada.”
Kirkland, helped get that ball rolling way back in the mid-80s when and his partner (Edward Jones?) submitted one of 246 designs for a new city centre.

Looking to build a link between yesterday and today, the city’s farming past and its burgeoning urban future, the partners built a “foundation for a city” in what was then a cornfield.
This incredible “act of faith” needed to resonate for a city on the make, and it did – despite its initial detractors.

Mayor Hazel McCallion, who recalled the halcyon days of its development, says the city “wanted to do something different.”

“There will never be another building like it,” she told spectators at this year’s MUD awards.
Baird remembers well the task of whittling the 246 submissions down to the final five, and then just one, the Kirkland-Jones design.

He was charged with setting a standard for competitors, and one being that the building surrounds a public square.

Baird said there was a real buzz because it was the first major design competition in Canada since Toronto’s City Hall was build a generation before. Design competitions had received a “dicey reputation” ever since the price tag for the Sydney Opera House multiplied from $7 million to $100 million during construction.

While Mississauga was looking for something eclectic to house its city hall, it also needed a functional building.

It got both. And both architect and client had to compromise to make it happen.
“The budget was lean at the time,” recalls Kirkland.

It took five years form competition to the opening of the new building, eventually opened by the Prince of Wales.

Kirkland says the design “takes the historical markings [of the city] and makes it modern.” He spent his day last month, revisiting the building, and had a few critical words about what now surrounds the iconic structure, including many condos.

You have to have an intensity of development that will make it a “meaningful place,” he said.
McCallion disagreed, slightly. “We did the right thing,” when it was built, she said, “and it stands out in our city core, no matter what is built around it.”

Inserting “our DNA into cities” is what good design is all about, said Kirkland, and nowhere is that more true that with the building of Mississauga’s second iconic structure, ‘Absolute World,’ and the ‘Marilyn’ building(s).

Winning an Award of Excellence was a bit of a no-brainer for the judges, because the project seemed to epitomize the criteria for the award: significance on a citywide scale; significance on a community scale; living green; innovation; context; and execution. It also had to support the City’s Strategic Plan. Plus, it had to exemplify the city’s design principles.

Ed Sajecki, another judge, and the City’s commissioner of planning and building, said the ‘Marilyn’ project, and all the MUD winners show “that the city if really coming of age.”
It’s all about the look and feel and how projects fit in with the city’s future plans.  

Other Awards of Excellence went to the Lakeview, Lorne Park and Port Credit Libraries, under consultants Rounthwaite Dick and Hadley Architects Inc., and NAK Design Group
Built between 1956 and 1967, these renovations and adaptive re-use projects, deploy an identifiable vocabulary of simple modernist style and familiar detailing, and seamlessly become “one” with the open-space settings, said the judges.

The city honoured Absolute World – ‘Marilyn’ Tower, Phase IV, (MAD Architects, Burka Architects Inc., and NAK Design Group) is owned by Cityzen Development Group and Fernbrook Homes.

Part of the five-tower, master-planned community at Burnhamthorpe and Highway 10, with residential units, a recreational facility and retail stores, the tower twists 180 degrees from its base to the top, resulting in an “organic form.”

The jury said, “It redefines the downtown skyline and exceeds current conventions in residential tower design.”

The third ‘Excellence Award’ went to Scholars’ Green Park
(275 Prince of Wales Drive) and consultants Gh3 and Terraplan Landscape Architects Ltd.
Located at the centre of Sheridan College’s new campus, is the symbiosis of a public park and an academic common that provides quiet outdoor amenity space for students.

The jury said it “offers refuge and quiet places for contemplation, social recreation, leisure, relaxation and reflections – highly complementary to the academic environment that will eventually envelop and define the edges of the park.”?Two Awards of Merit were also handed out. O’Connor Park (3570 Bala Drive, PMA Landscape Architects Ltd.) is a remnant wetland that once connected the headwaters of Sawmill Creek and was the inspiration for the development of a park, a trail system and enhanced wetlands within the Churchill Meadows community. 

860 Goodwin Road and 864 Goodwin Road
(EN2 Development Corp.) are newly constructed private residences adjacent to one another in the Lakeview area of the city. Both homes are built with environmentally friendly materials and include energy efficient systems such as solar panels. The jury called the homes “a fresh perspective on infill development” and “clearly a product of today, versus a more conventional approach to residential design that mimics the past.”

The jury also included David Farro, a graduate in urban and regional planning from Ryerson, who is now working as a committee of adjustment planner for Mississauga, and represents the winning concept submission of the urban design student poster competition James Wright, co-founder of Young + Wright Architects Inc., and now director at IBI Group of Architects, plus Brad Fleisher, a landscape architect (Fleisher Ridout Partnership Inc.).

George Baird, emeritus Professor of architecture and former dean of the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design at the U of T., rounded out the impressive list of jurors.