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With their distinctive profile, Uno Prii’s Jane-Exbury towers are among the most iconic of the nearly 1000 residential complexes that mark Toronto’s inner suburbs. With its dominant position on the landscape, the five tower complex also typifies the utopian architectural ideal of the day: densely populated monoliths rising out of vast open spaces.
Once praised by Buckminster Fuller as a progressive model for suburban development, many of Toronto’s mid-century residential complexes have fallen into disrepair and disrepute. Still home to hundreds of thousands of Torontonians–largely low income and new immigrant families–these buildings have become a locus of renewed activity as of late. Uno Prii’s work in particular has become the poster child for many of these initiatives. The book Concrete Toronto devotes a chapter to Prii, under the title “Uno Prii: Sculptor in Concrete.” Mayors Tower Renewal is a Toronto initiative devoted to improving the quality and efficiency of Toronto’s concrete high-rises, and the Jane-Exbury towers are featured prominently in their promotional literature. The Prii buildings also grace the cover of Tower Renewal Guidelines, a University of Toronto publication describing the technical requirements of tower retrofit. Lastly, they’re seen in the trailer for HIGHRISE, an ongoing NFB project examining global high-rise living.
– Jesse Colin Jackson