Toronto Skyline Skyscrapers

Can the urban development in Toronto be a model for Frankfurt?

A visit to Lake Ontario: between citizens’ participation and profit interests

The city of Toronto is the financial centre of Canada, characterised by its high-rise buildings: the CN Tower, with an elevation of 553 meters, is the landmark of Toronto. Here you can feel a little bit like you’re in Midtown Manhattan.

The high-rise buildings housing the biggest banks are close to the financial district. Along the road to Ontario, which directly borders the inner city, you can see many apartment blocks (so-called “condo towers”). Most of these have only been built in recent years. These apartment buildings rise up to around 270 meters.

What triggered this enormous building boom? There are about 8 million inhabitants in Toronto and its outskirts. Toronto is now one of the most populous metropolitan areas in North America. Each year an average of just over 100,000 immigrants arrive to live in the city on Lake Ontario.

In the 1970s, Toronto was keen to allow new houses only up to a maximum height of 13.7 meters in the city centre. Before long, however, planners realised that thousands of immigrants could not all be accommodated in the suburbs. The only way forward was to build upwards. This boom of apartment houses has allowed Toronto to have a dense and lively inner city.

This boom is controlled by urban planning techniques, to prevent buildings being built in the “Wild West” – mäniers. For example, the city has a clear communication on the importance of the participation of the population. The city administration is primarily concerned with where the buildings are built, how much of a shadow they produce, which materials are used and how much they contribute to the enrichment of the public. This process is made very clear: citizens are informed about the new building project via the city maps (see photos) and online (at They are included with the motto “PLANNING A GREAT CITY TOGETHER”.

At present, 140 high-rise buildings are under construction in downtown Toronto. This increasing number of new high-rise buildings, primarily residential dwellings, illustrates what changes have taken place in a megacity such as Toronto. High-rise buildings make it possible for a large number of residents to move directly into the city.

Throughout all of these changes, it is important that the city administration of Toronto inform and involve the citizens, in order to make the planning process clear, to encourage support from citizens and to improve the quality of the planning.

Frankfurt is also experiencing a new trend towards residential buildings, although the apartments are still only reserved for very high-paying clientele. New high-rise buildings are also emerging in the office segment. Unfortunately, attentive observers miss out on the same clarity provided in Toronto. The planning office in Frankfurt needs more transparency and should involve the public at an early stage, for example, on the Internet. It might benefit Frankfurt if there was a motto, as in the Canadian model: “PLANNING A GREAT CITY TOGETHER”.

A contribution by Jürgen Petzold.

2 Comments on “Can the urban development in Toronto be a model for Frankfurt?

  1. Talon Jalloh say: 6 years ago Reply

    Frankfurter is still constructing highrise buildings and unfairly call them skyscrapers. The buildings are just 60s style rectangular boxes standing upright. They oozes austerity, lack aesthetic’s and covered with cheap cladding. I opine the building should be at least 200m high for it to qualify as skyscraper. La defence in Paris, the Chicago harbour quarter and Singapore Marina harbour better skyscrapers…What I am seeing in Frankfurt is quintessentail German dullness and obsession with the bauhaus concept of which the rest of the world has not bought into…

  2. Michael Wutzke say: 6 years ago Reply

    We feel the same like you do: Most of the tall buildings in Frankfurt are just plain boxes. The city of Frankfurt should have more rights in selecting an appealing design for skyscrapers. We will make this a topic for one of the next articles and will try to help that the city will get eye-catching architecture.

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