Sunday, September 19, 2010

Vancouver Lights in Toronto

I recently travelled to Toronto, taking in the Film Festival (for
this) as well as some of the city's architectural highlights. For the sake of convenience, I'll be breaking photos down into two separate posts, roughly organized by era.

First, more recent projects (1982-2010).

Art Gallery of Ontario, redesigned by Frank Gehry, 2008. Gehry's buildings don't always work for me, however the AGO is lovely piece of architecture that serves its purpose well. The interior is bathed in wood (fir and glulam) that emanates a natural warmth. The gallery rooms hold their art well and the atrium that looks out on Dundas Street is a tranquil space to take a break and rest the eyes. As shown in the photos below, Gehry also designed a number of intriguing staircases in the building.

Addition to the Royal Ontario Museum, Daniel Libeskind, 2007. Just one photo of the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal looming out over Bloor Street. A less successful addition, taking cues from Libeskind's 1999 Jewish Museum in Berlin, that feels forced and ill-considered here.

The Bata Shoe Museum, Raymond Moriyama, 1995. A handsome building that shows a largely blank, understated limestone wall to Bloor Street, with the exception of the pyramidal glass entrance. Though the building resembles the general idea of a shoe box (roughly rectangular shape with 'lid'), the subtle angularity creates a shifting visual dynamism. Exhibitions at the museum are drawn from the Bata collection of 10,000 shoes.

The TIFF Lightbox, Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects, 2010. I attended the first screening in the building–Bruce MacDonald's Trigger–and am happy to report that, from a cinema-goers perspective, the Lightbox was a pleasure. The theatre design is excellent and materials were consistent and largely subdued. The focal point of the interior is the atrium space just inside the entry that houses an elevated central control room (orange box in bottom photo). The space is clean and clear-eyed, if a touch antiseptic. However this is offset by film-related images projected on one of the large white walls. There has been criticism of the building, notably the exterior and the way it relates to the neighborhood, however it seems to fulfill its mandate admirably, as a centre for all things film. Toronto is lucky indeed.

Roy Thompson Hall, Arthur Erickson, 1982. One of Erickson's largest commissions in Toronto (along with William Carsen Centre), this hall sits in the middle of downtown and still acts as a major cultural focus. The interior was redesigned in 2002 by Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects, after complaints of sound quality issues and poor acoustics. The building features a distinctive reflective glass canopy (originally meant to be clear like Robson Square) and a sunken water feature with patio that acts as a respite from city commotion.

Next up: Part two of Vancouver Lights in Toronto, including buildings by Ron Thom, Peter Dickinson, Mies van der Rohe and John B. Parkin.

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