Forma, Toronto: first look at Gehry’s tallest building in the world

by Archilovers
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Details for Frank Owen Gehry’s newest masterpiece, FORMA, have been unveiled by developers Great Gulf Group, Dream (consisting of Dream Unlimited Corp. [TSX: DRM] and Dream Impact Trust [TSX MPCT.UN]), and Westdale Properties, set to leave a dramatic and indelible mark on Toronto’s skyline. Marking Gehry’s first residential tower in Canada and tallest building in the world yet, the new designs for the 73-storey east tower include a thoughtfully-appointed Gehry-designed lobby along with a striking custom art installation that reflects his visionary approach.

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From the onset, Forma has been an exercise in defining the urban space along King Street and Duncan Street in Toronto with a set of towers that would inject visual dynamism and movement onto the skyline. The relationship of the various building volumes, as well as the void between the towers, change as onlookers move around the site, creating an effect that’s further amplified by the material selection and the geometries of the façade. The resulting undulating fluidity is meant to become even more dynamic over the course of the day because of the way the metal reflects the changing light.

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Born in Toronto, it was important to Gehry that Forma’s design harken back to some of the buildings that were important to him growing up, like Old City Hall, where the architectural definition and texture of the sandstone helped establish an air of gravitas.  

“I’m a Toronto traditionalist, because I remember Osgoode Hall, University Avenue, the Parliament Buildings, and the Royal York Hotel. There is a feeling of Toronto that I had as a kid, and I wanted that to be in the DNA of our design,” says Frank Gehry, Gehry Partners LLP. “Every city in the world has its own light and the light is modified by the buildings in the city. I wanted this building to capture the essence of Toronto. It’s not like everywhere else. The light is different. The heritage is different. It’s a different place. I hope that is what people see when they look up.”  

Not only did that feeling guide the design of the façade, which aimed to achieve a unique presence in Toronto, it extended into the Gehry-designed lobby, inspired by the Group of Seven and the ties between the natural landscape and Canada’s identity.

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The material palette of the east tower lobby offers a counterpoint to the stainless steel of the tower with curved wood furniture and accents, along with limestone cladding the walls and flooring. The ceiling is dominated by a sculptural installation designed by Gehry’s design team, offering a shimmering motif of maple leaves that can be viewed from the street.  

Drawing on the vocabulary of the façade, alternating stainless steel and glass canopies wrap the corners of both towers at street level, giving coverage to future potential commercial tenants and maximizing the public realm with active street frontage. 

Remaining interior spaces were helmed by internationally-acclaimed designer, Studio Paolo Ferrari, who built on Gehry’s initial inspiration, delivering designs that served as a metaphor for the city. Drawing on the studio’s extensive international hospitality experience designing five-star luxury hotels and resorts, Forma marks Ferrari’s first condominium residence design in his studio’s hometown of Toronto.  

Ferrari’s designs strike a balance between spaces that feel exuberant and lively, and others that are serene. Amenity spaces highlight the importance of a user-centric approach that reflects how future residents will live in and use the spaces. Rather than concentrating amenities in one area of the building, spaces were grouped by theme and strategically located throughout. Separating the amenities in this way allowed the design to focus on the actual uses of each space, providing spaces that are more intimate and accessible.  

Hospitality and entertainment amenities are grouped in the Grand Suite on the 73rd floor, taking advantage of spectacular views. Conceived as a generous extension of the building’s residences, the Grand Suite features a chef’s kitchen, interconnected entertainment rooms and an intimate theatre intended for smaller groups of ten or twelve.

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The Creator’s Club focuses on moments of inspiration and creativity, featuring a multi-functional co-working space, which shifts from private and semi-private spaces to more open areas for working and collaboration. An adjoining Maker’s Studio offers space for hands-on tasks, crafts, and hobbies, while the soundproof recording studio allows content creators to record podcasts, or work on social media videos and other creations.  

Finally, the Health and Wellness Retreat balances the amenity offering, with a focus on the duality of restoration and high energy. Grounded in mind, body, and wellness, Forma features a spa, a jacuzzi with warm grey stone, and a sauna, which complements a warm, lively fitness studio complete with the latest equipment, including a dedicated spin room.

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“Our intention was to craft purposeful spaces that oscillate between social and serene. Toronto is an unrelenting, energetic city that, at the same time, also has incredible connections to the lake and nature. We wanted to capture a balance between the exuberance and the restorative,” says Paolo Ferrari, founder of Studio Paolo Ferrari. “It’s been incredible to collaborate with Gehry on this vision– he is an incredible ambassador for creativity and inventiveness. We saw first-hand how Gehry and the entire team were genuinely passionate about this work and found a natural alignment from the very beginning.”  

Gehry’s work has been considered among the most influential in contemporary architecture. Throughout his illustrious career he has been recognized with numerous awards including the Pritzker Prize, the world’s most prestigious architecture award.

A few of Gehry’s most notable projects include the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris.  

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Toronto / Canada / 2028