Architecture Q+A with Babak Eslahjou, principal of Core Architects

Crosstown Eglinton Residences

I recently had the pleasure of working with Babak on a largescale project for Canada Lands. His creativity always inspires me! And while his firm is known for excelling in condominium design, his approach to office building design for Crosstown Eglinton is exciting as well. With a dynamic geometric facade, it raises the bar for non-core office buildings in Toronto. Additionally, integrating the heritage components of the Eglinton site into the modern residences contributes to the overall success of this community. I have known him for about 15 years now and he always impresses me with his willingness to share his knowledge and insight. As well, he is one of the nicest guys in the business! He travels frequently, so catching him in Toronto is a rare feat.

Q Babak, you often inspire others, but what inspires you? There are different levels of responses to that question. What is inspiring to me is travel. Travel allows us to see how the rest of the world copes with the same problems we have. There are many creative solutions to problems across the world, if we choose to see them. For example, how can it be that New York has so many successful high-rise buildings and not a single one of them fits into Toronto's tall building guidelines? New York's architecture is thriving and successful. What can we learn from it? Will the tall building guidelines in Toronto result in too much sameness? Great cities have character. Character develops from variety. While guidelines can be good, they have to be flexible enough to allow for creativity in solutions.

Q That is an interesting point. Cities develop their character over time and due to variety. How have you seen the city change since you became an architect? As a global society, we are becoming city dwellers. More towers were built in the last 10 years than in the previous 100 years. It is our human nature to improve things. For example, developers are putting more money into condominium construction quality than ever before: better materials, better design, more robust solutions. Prices are going up every year, however increases in development charges are a big contributor. Densification is inevitable, but character must be at the forefront of every solution.

Q What do you wish to see more of in design? I wish that clients would let architects create fresh new ideas, rather than giving references to other things that have already been done. I want clients who value innovation and understand that creative solutions can move audiences. Less restrictions would also be great! Unfortunately, I see many requests for proposals that are targeted toward foreign architects. There are many great architects in our city, but they are not often given a chance to showcase their creativity. This city has the propensity to choose foreign architects 'stararchitects'. How did they become icons? Generally speaking, it is because a client gave them a chance – with a lot of leeway – to express their creativity. We need more clients like this in Canada who give Canadian architects a chance.

Q Tell me about one of your more recent projects. We partnered with Foster for The One at Yonge and Bloor. As you know, we have a tall building guideline that specifies a podium on a residential tower. This was not in our vision. Instead, we proposed a solution to the city that allowed the shape of the tower to mitigate the wind, without a podium. We were able to convince the city that this was a better solution. So now, the tower meets the ground plane. There is no podium. This is a victory for design, as it is a much more visually elegant solution.

Q What is next for you and Core Architects? It is said that architecture is an old man's profession. I am just getting started! I have a lot of experience in my pocket and this is my 7th inning stretch – and it will last for the next 10-15 years.

Samantha Sannella
Samantha Sannella
"SAMANTHA SANNELLA, BFA ID, M ARCH, is a designer, educator and principal at Urban Retreat Homes. She is an expert in the field of design and construction and is a columnist for several HOMES Publishing Group publications."
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