According to some prominent residents of the city and some important architects who have designed buildings there[who?], Toronto has no single dominant, architectural style. Lawrence Richards, a member of the faculty of architecture at the University of Toronto, has said "Toronto is a new, brash, rag-tag place—a big mix of periods and styles". Toronto buildings vary in design and age with some structures dating back to the mid 1800s, while other prominent buildings were just newly built in the 2000s.
Defining the Toronto skyline is the CN Tower. At a height of 553.33 metres (1,815 ft, 5 in) it is the world's second tallest freestanding structure, and the tallest tower in the western hemisphere surpassing Chicago's Sears Tower by 110 metres in height. It is an important telecommunications hub, and a centre of tourism in Toronto.
Toronto is a city of high-rises, having over 2,000 buildings over 90 metres (300 ft) in height, second only to New York (which has over 5,000 such buildings) in North America. Most of these buildings are residential (either rental or condominium, where as the Central business district contains the taller commercial office towers). There has been recent media attention given for the need to retrofit many of these buildings, which were constructed beginning in the 1950s as residential apartment blocks to accommodate a quickly growing population. Many of the older buildings are shown to give off high concentrations of CO2 and are thought to be a significant contributor to the urban heat island effect, in addition to the aesthetic concerns as many of the buildings are viewed by many as urban blights often surrounded by limited landscaping and concrete parking lots without integration with the surrounding neighbourhoods.
In contrast, Toronto has also begun to experience an architectural overhaul within the past five years. The Royal Ontario Museum, the Gardiner Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Ontario College of Art and Design are just some of the many public art buildings that have undergone massive renovations. The historic Distillery District, located on the eastern edge of downtown, is North America's largest and best preserved collection of Victorian era industrial architecture. It has been redeveloped into a pedestrian-oriented arts, culture and entertainment neighbourhood. Modern glass and steel highrises have begun to transform the majority of the downtown area as the condominium market has exploded and triggered widespread construction throughout the city's centre. Trump International Hotel and Tower, Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts are just some of the many high rise luxury condominium-hotel projects currently under construction in the downtown core.
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