From Catherine Nasmith's Built Heritage News:
17. Hummingbird Centre (Okeefe): Beauty and the Beast
[by] John Martins-Manteiga,
curator Dominion Modern and the recent Toronto Mean City exhibit
There is a scene in the final act of the horror film, Trilogy of Terror where a voodoo-possessed Karen Black sits, a towering figure, legs straddling, jagged teeth, Bride-of-Frankenstein hair and butcher knife in hand as she jabs again and again into the floor-boards waiting for her victim to arrive.
On June 3, 2005 Dan Brambilla, CEO of the Hummingbird Centre presented the latest redevelopment plans on the future of the Centre to community stakeholders. In a nutshell Dan Brambilla's plans call for the addition of a condo tower on the southwest corner of the Hummingbird with additional lower storey wings projecting out north and south.
Dan Brambilla's redevelopment dreams were in limbo until he heard architect Daniel Libeskind say, "I would love to build a condo tower in Toronto." And with those inspiring words come the latest, grandest and grotesque plans yet.
Libeskind presented a slide show that showed the Hummingbird Centre site.
consumed by a very tall winged shaped tower. wrapping his scheme in a talk that was confused, hurried, full of psycho-poetic babble. And then he threw in a pseudo ode to multi-culturalism, and a nod to Toronto‚s racial diversity.
His scheme is anything and everything you want it to be. The Hummingbird will have a condo on its site, and be an "entry point" where tourists will be debriefed and treated to a "world class" tribute to the arts, racial diversity and multiculturalism, while at the same time fight against discrimination and racism. The new entrance on Yonge Street will be shaped (I kid you not) like a globe welcoming the world into its womb.
Dan Brambilla envisions a cultural centre "on the amusement level of Disneyland."
When I sat listening to Liebeskind and viewing his graphic presentation, all I could think of was Karen Black, engulfing her victim, cannibalising and consuming it. I saw Dickinson‚s masterwork destroyed and devoured by Liebeskind‚s condo tower hovering maniacally over the Hummingbird like some vulture, wings straddling and suffocating it. If the plan is to build a tower that is out of proportion, out of joint andhas no business being on the same site, fine. But be honest enough to say that. Please don't drag every politically correct cliche on board to pad your argument to put a condo on the site.
When is it going to be okay to leave one of our treasured buildings alone? When are we going to say enough already? My advice to Dan Brambilla is build your condo somewhere else and restore the Hummingbird. If you are found with a budget shortfall, find new acts or performers to fill that shortfall. The Hummingbird is ours. It was a gift from E.P. Taylor to the citizens of Toronto. It belongs to us, with all its grace and beauty. If he does this, future generations will remember him for that, for having the courage and vision to be the caretaker of this modern jewel.
If this city is serious about preserving mid 20th century architecture then here's what should happen:
·-Restore the Hummingbird, this is architect Peter Dickinson's masterpiece!
·-Restore white marble proscenium walls that framed the lobby and obscured the escalators removed by misguided renovators who wanted to "fix" what they perceived as mistakes.
·-Restore the interior. Restore the vaulted ceiling. Remove the barrage of signs that take away form the architect’s original vision.
·-Maintain and restore the Hummingbird Centre's original site plan and landscaping.
·-Restore the Centre's original name. This after all was a gift to the city by E.P. Taylor and OKeefe Breweries.