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This page describes what is included in the database, and how complete it is.

High level view of TOBuilt

TOBuilt  is a database of images and information about buildings and certain other structures in Toronto such as bridges, gates, lamp-posts, and statues. The general term "buildings" is used on this website where "structures" might be more accurate, but buildings is more user friendly and is accurate about 95% of the time.

All buildings in the database are within the formal borders of the City of Toronto. This means, for instance, that buildings at Pearson Airport are not included.

TOBuilt contains information especially about:

In general, buildings are only added as they are photographed, and for this reason the database is incomplete in several areas. Only rarely is information about a building for which an image is not available included in TOBuilt.

What is a building?

When compiling a list of buildings, the question of "what is a building? " inevitably arises. Obviously, most buildings are quite straightforward. However, in some cases it is difficult to distinguish whether a structure consists of more than one building, and the answer may depend on which perspective you take.  Here are a few examples to highlight the kinds of problems that arise:

        College Park. College Park as it is in 2006 consists of the remains of a department store, an apartment building built on top of the store, and an attached office building. There is an unrealized office tower that might have formed part of the building had the Great Depression not occurred. The building has a heritage status that presumably applies to the remains of the department store, but not to its other bits. It recently won an award for the restoration of the Art Deco Carlu rooms within the building. 

In a list of heritage buildings, "College Park" or the old T. Eaton Company department store would be a single entry. In a list of awards, the Carlu, which forms part of the former Eaton's, would be a single award. In a list of 12+ storey buildings, College Park would include two distinct buildings, an office tower and a rental building. If "Never Built" projects are included, there is a third tower that would form part of the structure.

        Three co-ops, two co-ops, or one building. Some buildings that are physically whole have more than one identity. The "Cathedral Square" project consists of three co-ops each with separate entrances and hallways, but sharing underground parking and a utilities base. From the outside, Cathedral Square appears as one building and it would take some effort to see where one co-op ends and the other begins. Nonetheless, there are three entries in TOBuilt, as this seemed the easiest way to capture the different identities of the co-ops. In constrast, the Robert Cooke Cooperative / Lakeshore Gardens in Etobicoke is an example of two co-ops being treated as a single building in TOBuilt.

There are then difficulties in identifying a building when it consists of composite parts of different ages. This has led to some inconsistencies in the way buildings are described in TOBuilt. My approach is that it is more important to describe buildings fully and accurately, than to be consistent for consistency's sake, and this is reflected in the database.

Types of buildings in TOBuilt

Some categories of buildings have been specifically targetted for inclusion in TOBuilt; these consist of high-rises, heritage buildings, buildings that have won awards, and building founds in published guides to the city. Below is a discussion of what criteria have been applied to these various categories, and some of the difficulties in applying the criteria.

 

Tall Buildings / Highrises

Some of the data on this site was originally gathered and submitted to a site then called Skyscrapers.com. Between 2002 and 2004 all buildings with a height of 12 or more storeys in the city were photographed and catalogued, and data about proposed and never built tall buildings was compiled. This data has been migrated to this site, and continues to be updated.

 

        Definition. Tall buildings are defined as those having a height of over 35 m or, more frequently, those having 12 or more storeys.

        Scope.  TOBuilt not only contains data about all completed tall buildings, but is also a good source of information for tall buildings that don't exist, such as those in the planning stages, or those which have been destroyed, or were planned but never built. TOBuilt contains entries for many "Never built" structures; there could be more, but entries have been added only if an image for the building is available.

        Completeness. The database contains all entries for tall buildings that have been completed or are under construction. Entries for buildings that are "under development" are kept up to date; however, it is impossible to state that at any given time the database encompasses all buildings which are in development.

 

Heritage buildings

Work on listing and photographing heritage buildings for the database began in 2005.

 

        Definition. A "heritage building" is a structure that is included on Toronto's Inventory of Heritage Properties. The database makes no distinction between designated vs. listed buildings. Click here to view the Inventory and for additional information about the city's heritage.

        Scope. The Inventory consists primarily of buildings, but also includes monuments, gates, bridges and various other structures. All these structures are eligible for inclusion in TOBuilt, with the following exceptions: tombstones, cemeteries, and trees. As well, the Inventory notes buildings which previously had a heritage designation, but which no longer exist. These are not included in TOBuilt, unless they were photographed and added prior to their demolition.

        Buildings vs. Properties. Using the Inventory as a source to determine which buildings to photograph presents some difficulties, since information in the Inventory is organized primarily by "properties", while this database describes "buidings". For example, one rowhouse that consists of six individual properties will have six entries in the Inventory (and possibly, cross references as well) while it will be described as a single building in TOBuilt. Conversely, a "property" like the Don Valley Brick Works complex requires only one entry in the Inventory, which translates into almost 20 buildings in TOBuilt.

        "Modern" heritage buildings. In Heritage Conservation Districts, the Inventory lists all properties covered by the definition of the district, even if they contain newer buildings or are empty lots on which no building exists. For this reason, it is not uncommon to find a very modern building in TOBuilt that is recorded as a heritage property. If properties found in Heritage Conservation Districts do not contain structures, they are not included in TOBuilt.

        Completeness. The database is far from a complete list of heritage buildings. In August, 2006, the majority of buildings on the Inventory within the former City of Toronto are in TOBuilt, and some heritage buildings outside that area are included, especially in East York and York. Work on photographing these buildings is ongoing.

 

Award-winning buildings and projects

 

        Definition. An "award" is a prize given to a building, group of buildings, or structure in recognition of its architectural or urban design accomplishments. It does not include awards that have been given to a building for other reasons, for instance, awards for building management.

        Scope. An attempt has been made to identify and include all buildings in Toronto that have won an award from the list below (click on each award category below for detailed information about the award and how many buildings in Toronto won awards).

     Massey Medals

     Governor General's Awards

     Canadian Architect Awards

     Ontario Association of Architects Awards

     City of Toronto Architecture and Urban Design Awards

TOBuilt also includes international awards where known, but no attempt has been made to establish a comprehensive list. It includes both winners of awards and unsuccessful candidates for awards (such as finalists or honourable mentions), where known. Buildings that have won awards, but which no longer exist, are included.

        Identification of buildings. Some award-winning buildings are difficult to identify from the available sources of information. For instance, in 1993 the Ontario Association of Architects awarded a prize for "An Addition to a 40 year old bungalow". Without an image or much more information, these buildings can be difficult to locate. Research into these award-winners is ongoing, but it means that the lists of buildings that have won awards will be incomplete for some time.

        One award, multiple buildings. Awards are frequently given to projects that consist of many buildings. In these cases, searching on one award will yield multiple hits. For example, a single Massey award to a housing project in Don Mills might result in twelve buildings in TOBuilt, all of which are included as having won an award.

        Never built projects. The Canadian Architect awards are awarded to unrealized projects. With some exceptions, only those that were later completed are included in TOBuilt.

        Buildings vs. other awards. Architectural awards for projects other than buildings are generally not included in TOBuilt. This includes awards for site plans, public squares, parks, student proposals and streetscaping proposals. As well, awards that are primarily for interior decoration or interior spaces that are not evident on the exterior of a building may not be included.

 

Checklisted publications

An attempt has been made to locate published guides that provide, for a large number of Toronto buildings, information such as the architect and the year of completion. These publications have been used to identify groups of buildings that should be included in TOBuilt. The publications noted below are therefore both sources of data for TOBuilt and have helped define the scope of the database. See "Sources of Information" for other publications.

All buildings that have been included in the following publications fall within the scope of TOBuilt (some of these are mostly in, others are in progress):

        Concrete Toronto: A guidebook to concrete architecture from the fifties to the seventies. Editors Michael McClelland and Graeme Stewart. Coach House Books, 2007.

        Toronto Architecture: A City Guide. Patricia McHugh. 2nd Ed. Toronto, McClelland & Stewart, 1989. 

        East/West: A Guide to Where People Live in Downtown Toronto. Editors Nancy Byrtus, Mark Fram, Michael McClelland. Toronto, Coach House Books, 2000.

        TSA Guide Map: Toronto Architecture 1953-2003. Toronto Society of Architects, 2003.

        North York's Modernist Architecture. City of North York Planning Department, Urban Design Division, c.1997.

The Toronto Public Library published a series of walking tours of the city. Buildings included in these tours have also been added (or will be added) to TOBuilt:  

        Historical Walking Tour of the Danforth. Barbara Myrvold. Toronto, Toronto Public Library Board, 1992. 

        Historical Walking Tour of Deer Park. Joan C. Kinsella. Toronto, Toronto Public Library Board, 1996. 

        Historical Walking Tour of Kensington and College Street. Joan C. Kinsella. Toronto, Toronto Public Library Board, 1996. 

        Historical Walking Tour of Kew Beach. Mary Campbell, Barbara Myrvold. Toronto, Toronto Public Library Board, c. 1995. 

        Historical Walking Tour of Lawrence Park. Lynda Moon, Barbara Myrvold, Elizabeth Ridler. Toronto, Toronto Public Library Board in cooperation with the North York Historical Society, Rev.Ed., 1995. 

 

Other buildings

Other buildings that are not tall, or are not designated, or which have not won an award, or are not found in one of the above publications, may also be referenced in the database. This can occur because a building is particularly prominent (i.e., SkyDome), or attractive, or unusual, or simply because the building carries on it a date (as some commercial blocks do).

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