Landmark Architecture

Marilyn Monroe was not the inspiration for Absolute 4 and 5, the last two towers in the Absolute City Centre five-tower complex in Mississauga, Ontario. But that’s the nickname locals have given the curvy, elliptical-shaped structures. Mississauga, a growing, relatively new city in need of a structure that would help establish its own identity, separate from neighboring Toronto, gets just that in these two towers.

According to Attila Burka with Toronto-based Burka Architects, master architect for the entire complex, the project’s location is significant. Located at the intersection of Burnhamthorpe Road and Hurontario Street, the area is regarded as Mississauga’s city center. Burka says prior to the project there were various high-rise residential towers, but on this particular corner something was missing.

“It was obvious something significant was needed there,” says Burka. “Mississauga is a relatively new city and one that needed a structure to establish its identity.”

To find this identifying landmark structure, an international competition was held. The winning design was submitted by Beijing-based MAD Architects. As master architects Burka could not enter the competition, but was contracted by MAD to carry out the design of the two residential towers, internal layout of the towers, the podium and to spearhead the approval process and to create the construction documents. The 56-story Tower A is 45,000 square meters, while the 50-storey Tower B is 40,000 square meters.

According to Ma Yansong, founding principal of MAD, the firm developed the architecture for the towers based on a contemporary interpretation of nature.

“All of our projects [have a] desire to protect the sense of community, offering people the freedom to develop their own experience,” says Yansong. “We wanted to introduce natural forms that played with light, shadow and wind.”

Yansong adds, “Our design concept [aims to] connect nature and human beings through lively form and oriental

Photo by Tom Arban

philosophy about the tension between them, [as well as] between the two towers.”

Intriguing as it was, the design offered a challenge for Burka, who says it was a lot like a flower vase – empty on the inside. His firm was brought on to access the design and determine how it could be built. He says they had two days to do this and ultimately “came up with the concept that would make the building stand up. We implemented the design and floor plan, including the design and construction documents, etc., and also had the buildings certified. It’s now very close to completion,” says Burka, who expects full completion within the next couple of months.

Speaking of the design challenges, Burka explains that while many buildings are designed from the inside out, that was not the case here.

“Function followed form,” he says explaining that the building followed more of an artistic approach. “It has an artistic shape that’s not governed by function.”

Burka worked closely with Sigmund, Soudack & Associates Inc., the structural engineer, to create a structure that would be both function-able and marketable.

The project’s design features a continuous balcony that surrounds the whole building, eliminating the need for vertical barriers. The entire building rotates by different degrees at different levels.

According to Sigmund, Soudack & Associates, “These two 56- and 50-storey towers feature elliptical-shaped slabs that are twisted around a central vertical axis resulting in a curvaceous shape … The rotating slabs presented two key structural challenges. The rotation of every floor meant that the engineers had to calculate the maximum load on every structural element. To address the thermal transfer between the open balconies and the interior, a new kind of thermal break was devised where the balconies meet the wall in two-foot segments alternating with four-foot gaps.”

Likewise, there are also a significant number of windows in the towers. These were supplied by Toro Aluminum based in Concord, Ontario. Burka says they chose to work with Toro upfront and involve them in the design.

“Since every floor plan is different there would have been [many, many] drawings,” says Burka. “So we were able to sit down with the window manufacturer and [work together on the design].”

With the towers nearing completion, Mississauga will soon have its own landmark. And as Burka has noted, “Buildings are significant as focal points because they attract relevant use and visual appreciate in a cultural vocabulary which created it. In other words, it will become an expression of its time and the people who designed and built it.”