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How local is local, really?

Real estate, as they say, is a local business. Every market has its local nuances. For example, once of the first things that Studio Gang asked us when we started working together was, “does Toronto do PT?” What they were referring to was post-tensioned concrete and our answer was, “not really.” There are certainly examples of localized applications within buildings (such as for a specific transfer slab) and there are examples of buildings that have used it throughout (see Pier 27 Tower below — it’s how they managed to get such deep balconies). But for the most part, it’s not widely used and it’s certainly not as common as it is in markets such as New York. This subtle difference has an impact on how you design, which is why Studio Gang asked it from the outset.

Despite some of these local differences, there is a criticism out there that we have descended upon a kind of bland global design sensibility. No matter where you’re building, every building now looks the same, which, at the end of the day, was kind of the point of the International Style of architecture. One design approach applied universally. This recent article by Edwin Heathcote takes things even further by saying that our interiors have also been sterilized to look more or less the same as a result of “digital aesthetic seepage.” The article is called, “The curse of the Airbnb aesthetic.”

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One the one hand, there is something inevitable about this outcome. We — including our supply chains — have become more interconnected than ever. And because of the high cost of labor, the way we build today is centered around as much factory automation as possible. Minimize what needs to be done on site. And given that I would expect more, rather than less, automation going forward, one has to assume that this trend is destined to continue. At the same time, local places matter and one of the reasons why so many of us love to travel is that we want to see places that are different than our own. I for one don’t want that to change.

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