London

What will London's future skyline look like? Here's an educated guess

Engineer uses information from planning applications to create images that show buildings proposed or under construction as part of the existing city skyline.

Fascinated with how cities grow, Eric MacMillan creates images of how downtowns could develop

Eric MacMillan uses data he gleans from planning applications and other sources to create 3D images of buildings, then places those images among existing buildings. (Eric MacMillan)

As a boy growing up in Mississauga, Ont., Eric MacMillan would often cast his eyes upward and wonder how the towers yet to be built would re-shape the skyline of his fast-growing city. 

It was the challenge of trying to visualize the future cityscape that interested him most, how the new buildings would fit into what was already there, like missing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

"When I was younger I was looking at this just astounded by how fast everything was changing," he said. "That's what got me enthusiastic about visualizing development like this."

These days MacMillan is a 24-year-old University of Windsor graduate working remotely as an environmental engineer in training for Englobe, a company based in London. 

As a hobby, he maps out buildings that are under construction or in various stages of planning approval. He creates images of the buildings using the 3D modelling software Sketchup and places them in their correct place among existing towers using Google Maps.

"It really can be a lot of work when you're trying to go through all the development applications," he said. "Mississauga was certainly not easy, because there's something like 100 proposed and under-construction towers there right now." 

This is the view of downtown London from Labatt Park we may see in the future, with the Centro building (currently under construction) and the proposed Farhi Holdings Corp. development on Ridout Street. (Eric MacMillan)

One image on his flickr page has a view of the London skyline a person would see if they were sitting in the first-base stands at Labatt Memorial Park.

At first glance, the image would strike most Londoners as familiar. However, a closer look reveals some key differences in the skyline than what's there now. At the left side of the frame is the Azure condo building completed in 2018. Also shown as if it was already built is the under-construction Centro apartment building at the corner of Dufferin and Talbot streets. 

The proposed 40-storey tower at the corner and Ridout and Queens Avenue is also there, even though it's not really there yet. 

MacMillan started doing mockups of Mississauga because that city was changing so rapidly as the Greater Toronto Area underwent explosive growth. Once he finished his Mississauga model, he moved on to other cities with a deliberate focus on mid-sized Canadian urban centres such as Hamilton, Saskatoon, Halifax, Kelowna and of course, London.

In addition to honing his design and modelling skills, the skyline maps also require extensive research. MacMillan scours planning applications, pre-sale condo websites and other source material to ensure the buildings have the correct proportions and an accurate look and feel. 

Aside from Centro, he said the building that stands to bring the biggest change to London's skyline is a proposed three-tower development slated to bring 700 residential units to the downtown block bordered by Dundas, Clarence and King Streets. 

"That one will fill up a giant hole in downtown," he said. 

MacMillan said if there's one trend that's emerged from all his building of buildings, it's that mid-sized cities like London are set for big changes in the years to come. 

"They're actually getting an incredible amount of investment," he said. "I think this is a result of price increases in places like Toronto that are prompting people to seek cheaper places to live."

As new buildings are proposed and being to fill in open spaces in these cities, MacMillan plans to update his images tracing each skyline as it evolves.

Eric MacMillan made this image of downtown London, adding to the existing cityscape buildings that are proposed or under construction. (Eric MacMillan)
Eric MacMillan is an engineer with a hobby for imagining Canadian city skylines in 20 or 30 years by using existing building permits and proposals. He speaks to London Morning about what London will look like down the road. 8:09

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