Sunday was another snowy day here in Toronto. I shuffled down Yonge Street on a mission to see the newly built Aura – the tallest residential building in Canada.
Snowy Yonge Street with the spectacular Aura in the distance
In the downtown core, most Torontonians spent the day inside their high-rise condo buildings. Toronto is going through a condo explosion right now and is leading all cities in North America in high-rise construction. Along with this astounding condo boom has arisen a new fear among condo developers, buyers and sellers – tetraphobia!
Tetraphobia is the fear of the number four and it’s common in many parts of East Asia and Southeast Asia. In many Chinese dialects, the words for “four” and “death” are almost homophonous. The same is true in Sino-Japanese, Sino-Korean and Sino-Vietnamese.
In an effort to remove the number 4 from most new residential buildings in Toronto, floor numbers jump from 3 to 5. My building has followed the trend as you can see in this snap of my condo’s elevator panel:
This isn’t the first time that buildings in North America and Europe have toyed with floor numbers. From the early twentieth century until today, the 13th floor has been removed from most buildings in Canada, the U.S. and Europe due to a fear of the number 13. According to Wikipedia, research conducted by Dilip Rangnekar of Otis Elevators found that 85% of buildings with elevators in the world did not have a floor called the 13th floor.
Some Christians believe that the fear of the number 13 (triskaidekaphobia) originated from the story of The Last Supper. They maintain that the thirteenth, and last, guest to sit at the table was Judas, the man who betrayed Jesus the Nazarene. The Bible, however, mentions nothing about the sitting sequence of the disciples. Other scholars point to the 13th god in the Norse pantheon, Loki, who orchestrated the murder of the benevolent god, Baldr.
The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci (1494-1498)
Was Judas the 13th person to arrive at The Last Supper?
Fast-forward to 1990s Toronto and we see a similar floor renaming procedure. However, this time it involves the 4th floor, rather than the 13th, due to the recent wave of Asian immigrants to the city.
Canadian real estate developer, Canderel, has taken notice of the changing demographics and, as a result, the company is catering to the superstitions of all cultures with their latest developments. Their shining jewel, the previously mentioned 82-storey condominium, Aura, at the corner of Yonge and Gerrard is set to open in Spring 2015. Following the Western tradition of removing the 13th floor, Aura has 4 floors of retail space and 78 residential floors above it. With the 13th floor removed, the penthouse is now located on the 79th floor.
Look way up! It’s Aura! The flashy ad campaign invites buyers to “Own a piece of the sky.”
Canderel’s latest project, the upcoming skyscraper YC (Yonge at College) Condominiums, will cater to people with varied superstitions. Multiple floors have been skipped in the YC design – 13, 14, 24, 34, 44 and 54.
The Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill has taken it one step further. In 2013, the Richmond Hill City Council passed a motion to ban the number 4 from all new street addresses. The motion was proposed by Greg Beros and it passed by a slim margin (5 votes to 4).
In this CBC interview, Beros explains why he forwarded the motion.
Outside of Canada, many other countries cater to the superstitions of newcomers and visitors. For example, the American hotel chains, Marriott and Hilton, both go to great lengths to ensure that no Chinese tour group is ever placed on a floor containing the number 4. In Hong Kong, both Western and Eastern superstitions are observed as the 13th floors, and any floors ending in a 4, have been renamed in most buildings.
Some find this new trend silly, but it’s no more odd than the 13th floor ban we’ve been complicit with in the past century. Besides, if anglophones counted, “One, two, three, death, five, six, seven, eight,” would you want to live on the Death Floor? Or, would you rather reside on a more peaceful sounding floor? I would definitely go with the latter. How about you?
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