The Upshot of Sidewalk Labs’ Canceled Toronto Project


A now-scrapped redevelopment vision for the Toronto lakefront was heavy on timber construction and concern-prompting tech solutions. (Courtesy Sidewalk Labs)

A now-scrapped redevelopment vision for the Toronto lakefront was heavy on timber construction and concern-prompting tech solutions. (Courtesy Sidewalk Labs)

In May, Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs announced that it would cancel its high-profile Quayside project because of “unprecedented economic uncertainty.” The statement marked the end of a three-year initiative to create a living, urban “testbed for emerging technologies, materials, and processes.”

Reversing the traditional order of city planning, Sidewalk Labs imagined building a new urban district on Toronto’s waterfront from the internet up, with sensors and other data collection infrastructure embedded in the fabric of a large city block. The ambitious development—with an area of 2.65 million square feet, including 1.78 million square feet of residential space—was to be built entirely from mass timber; indeed, the extensive use of modular cross-laminated timber (CLT) and glue-laminated timber (glulam) was a chief selling point of the design (by Heatherwick Studio and Snøhetta, using a kit-of-parts developed by Michael Green Architecture).

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