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Sophisticated. Civic-minded. Clean. These are not descriptions you associate with the cluttered Toronto skyline. But the newly opened Bay Adelaide Centre is infused with the best of 21st-century thinking: it's a sustainable office tower anchored meaningfully to the street with a generous public square and a chapel of sublime art inside its front lobby by internationally acclaimed light artist James Turrell.

Over the past two decades, the architectural firm, WZMH, grappled with different designs and three sets of working drawings, but the final 51-storey version represents the cleanest, most minimal tower of them all. The textural flourish comes in the restored Tyndall stone façade of the 1926 National Building. Another marvel of the building is its thin, crisp glass skin, which provides excellent insulation from the elements, and is critical to its sustainability. Built by Brookfield Properties, the centre is at the vanguard of green: the building is likely to receive a highly-sought Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold standard.

It's green on the outside, too. A new public square east of the tower offers new ways to breathe in the downtown - and provides a welcome visual elixir, the like of which has not been seen since Santiago Calatrava's soaring atrium at what was then called BCE Place. There are a dozen gingko trees and native grasses to soften the granite plaza, and plenty of room - a half-acre - to enjoy being at home in the city.

But the intent of the overall design is crystal clear: connect to pedestrians and draw them through the transparent lobby, where Mr. Turrell's stunning work becomes a refuge of meditation for the drivers of Canada's economic engine.

Only occasionally has Mr. Turrell offered his work in light as public art, preferring to show at public institutions such as the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Guggenheim Museum in New York, where a major retrospective of his work is being planned for 2012. But his exquisite tall glass pieces are here to stay in Toronto. Shifting tapestries of light - polyphonic compositions of colour and movement - they are as compelling as the clouds on a windy day. Pay attention Generation X and Y developers: A new standard has been set for building tall in Toronto.

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