International Starchitects to Toronto

Discussion in 'Buildings, Architecture & Urban Design' started by buildup, Mar 11, 2012.

  1. buildup

    buildup Senior Member

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    I am sure the first response will be a tearful reproach that I got someone's hopes up but have nothing to announce.

    But Mongo's thread on supertall rumours was fun. I'd love to see us to track anything related to starchitects & toronto - current projects, rumours, even whispers. My sense is developers may be feeling the bar is about to get raised again, and the scale of some of their projects can pay for global talent.

    We could track for example:

    • Sales success of Safdie's Monde (its critically important this succeed)
    • The Oxford development has apparently sought out big names
    • Ingels for Bayview & a Westbank project
    • Ryerson's Yonge Street building
    • etc

    My hope is some of the supertalls coming have sought out celebrity architects if only because these will help Toronto attract more tourists. Wouild love to see a Gehry.
     
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  2. jje1000

    jje1000 Senior Member

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    We already have a Gehry! No need for some crazy skyscraper by him. Anyways, I think the bar will continue to be pushed higher and higher- the only limit is when the condo market finally slows or drops.

    Also, Foster and the East Bayfront.
     
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  3. CanadianNational

    CanadianNational Senior Member

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    I don't think a city needs to limit itself to one building by one high-powered architect. After all, even Montreal got a Mies Van Der Rohe gas station, in addition to his Westmount apartment complex. I for one would welcome a Gehry tower. Though there are plenty of other names.
    I think more than one building by an architect gives some welcome context to their work. Or perhaps unwelcome. (grin) Regardless, I think there's more to be gained from being adventurous than staid.

    I wish Toronto had cultivated a natural habit of hosting more design competitions, as well as expecting a more zesty, and stylistically divergent architectural environment as par for the course. Just a quick look down the last ten years of Pritzker Prize winners does make one feel a kind of longing:

    -Jean Nouvel
    -Peter Zumthor
    -Richard Rogers
    -Thom Mayne
    -Zaha Hadid
    -Herzog and DeMeuron
    -Norman Foster
    -Renzo Piano
    -Tadao Ando
    -Rem Koolhaus

    This year's winner, Wang Shu (a couple pictures below)

    [​IMG]


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    [​IMG]

    And of course, Bjarke Ingels.

    I think more design competitions would be a good thing to shake us out of our ruts and familiar arguing points. Some truly different, innovative - and yes - foreign - architecture and sensibility could help us to see and perceive things more freshly. I believe that a great deal of time is spent on this forum hairsplitting over narrow things like cladding details, when the larger architectural picture is less disputed. There's nothing wrong with statements of preference over such things on a public forum, of course, but I think that sometimes in Toronto, we can and have become accustomed to quite a narrow range of appearances. I think more, new and different approaches could help us out of that.
    Good architecture isn't just for the people on this board though - it's for everybody.
    It would be in keeping with our purported standard of being a multicultural, intelligent and cosmopolitan city. It would be a welcome rebuttal of sorts, to the kind of insular and dogmatic bromides that are circulating in politics these days.

    All in all, I think more "starchitects" could be a good thing. If southcore had followed the example of the main financial core, we'd be looking at "starchitecture" fronting the lake now. Back in the day, Toronto hired Mies and I.M. Pei for it's most prominent financial buildings, and Viljo Revell for our city hall (picked by Saarinen, no less). More of that kind of optimistic spirit would help the city, I think.
     
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  4. unimaginative2

    unimaginative2 Senior Member

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    Toronto has an unfortunate recent record of hiring starchitects and then abandoning them. Calatrava with Ryerson, David Childs with Minto Midtown, Alsop with West Queen West.

    It is interesting that we don't have any projects by the last ten years of Pritzker Prize winners, other than the U of T Pharmacy building designed by Foster's firm. Our record was somewhat better with earlier winners, with projects by Philip Johnson (CBC), I.M. Pei (Commerce Court), and Frank Gehry (AGO). I might have missed someone...

    No Canadian, unless you count Gehry, has been awarded the Pritzker. I'd imagine Erickson would have had the best chance.

    Agreed. Toronto's large office buildings have seen a marked decline in architectural quality over the decades. From Pei and Mies in the first generation to Zeidler and WZMH (with the likes of Calatrava relegated to designing the podiums) in the second. By the third (today), most of the buildings were anonymous designs by large commercial firms.
     
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  5. CanadianNational

    CanadianNational Senior Member

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    Thanks for the reminder that we do have a Foster. It's so underwhelming you have to wonder what the problem was. Budget? Care? Compared to his other projects around the world, it's blatantly, almost perversely dull. I can't help but feel he might have been more constrained here than usual, and just handed the darn thing over to his students.
    Thanks too for the mention of Erickson. I would have liked to see him get more work here - it's so finely lined and distinctive. It's too bad he never got a chance to do a tall building in Toronto. Also, Douglas Cardinal. This country could have used dozens more buildings by him.

    It's also too bad we completely missed out on Frank Lloyd Wright. It would really be a head-spinner to see something like the Price Tower sitting at Bloor and Avenue Road. Also, Le Corbusier. I can't imagine what he could have possibly be granted a commission for here, but it would have been very interesting to see what at least a proposal might have been from him for some something-or-the-other.

    I would like to see Toronto hiring notable architects for stand-alone structures, instead of just doing additions. The ROM and AGO were both additions - though Libeskind now has the L tower. Though arguably, that's still partly beholden to the building it's attached to.
    Steven Holl has the Cherry Street District Energy Centre, which is great, but kind of slight potatoes compared to his gallery work. Michael Van Valkenburg is doing tremendous work with parks here, and West8 has the waterfront scheme and involved low-lying projects. But neither are quite the same thing as notable specific edifices.

    One truly notable piece of real architecture going up in this city right now, IMO, is the Aga Kahn Museum and Ismaili Centre by Fumihiko Maki. To me, it embodies the kind of intellectual, social and architectural creation that we saw blossom everywhere in Canada through the 1960's and 70's - and would be great to see more of here, now.
     
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  6. freshcutgrass

    freshcutgrass Senior Member

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    Thom Mayne, Graduate House (Although it was built 5 years before he won in 2005)


    Largely do to who the developers are now...large pension funds. When people like the Bronfmans were in charge of things, architecture mattered. TD Centre got built in Toronto for the same reason the Seagram Building got built in New York (although cladding TD Centre in bronze was out of the question). Eaton Centre involved the same people. Trust me, Cadillac Fairview would not be defacing these properties had it still been in the control of the Bronfmans.


    Well, hometown boys WZMH followed up with Royal Bank Plaza and Scotia Plaza, and held their own I think, prizes or no prizes (I'd even throw Sun Life Centre in there).
     
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  7. adma

    adma Superstar

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    Also, when it comes to "internationals", SOM was involved in BCE, and KPF aren't exactly hacks...
     
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  8. AlvinofDiaspar

    AlvinofDiaspar Moderator

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    re: "Recent" Pritzker winners and extant/projects in pipeline

    Rogers (2007) - St. Lawrence Market North
    Mayne (2005) - Grad House
    Foster (1999) - Pharmacy Building, York University Station, C3 Lakeshore (Waterfront)
    Maki (1993) - Aga Khan Museum

    Personally, I am still patiently waiting for a project by Renzo Piano and Zaha Hadid in Toronto.

    adma

    re: SOM/KPF

    Yeah, they aren't hacks - but they are sort of like global equivalent of our WZMH or KPMB.

    AoD
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2012
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  9. buildup

    buildup Senior Member

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    We also had a starchitect win and then lose Downsiew park - Koolhaus I think.

    In any case, this is Toronto's moment. There are about 5-10 major projects coming down the chute, if all or most went to starchitects it could change the face of the city.

    The Wallman project on 10 York is good, but the other large ones close by should get redesigned before advancing. The towers proposed for Cumberland & Yorville etc would give Bloor more heft.
     
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  10. TrickyRicky

    TrickyRicky Senior Member

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    The reality check of course is that "Toronto" has nothing to do with star architects unless you are talking about the municipal government of Toronto and their catalogue of municipal buildings. In a way architects themselves aren't really that important with respect to the question of having innovative or fashionable architecture. As freshcut points out it is the owners and institutions that create architecture and the built form. Starchitects or the architects that will be the stars of the future are a dime-a-dozen. In this city region it is owners and organizations with the desire and level of sophistication required to commit to innovative architectural design that are rare.

    I think that our protestant culture has a lot to do with this. You can make your own judgement as to if this is a good thing or not. I personally subscribe to this culture. I would sacrific or even neglect status issues for deeper wisdoms or morals any day. I think that is why it is easier for Toronto architecture to embrace things like "value engineering", "environmental sustainability", or "function over form". Many cultures value status much higher and they are not wrong to do so. The realm of starchitecture is much more relevent and admired when status is paramount in the culture.
     
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  11. buildup

    buildup Senior Member

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    Tricky, I think you points are interesting. But as I reflect I cannot come up with any significant example of cultures anywhere or at any time where institutions and people didn't try to display status in a very meaningful way - particularly through architecture. There might have been some cultures, Inuit, who limited resources to deal with but that is another story.
     
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  12. freshcutgrass

    freshcutgrass Senior Member

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    I'll bet that when it comes to architectural press, it will be Snøhetta's Student Learning Centre that gets the most attention. Some big towers will get talked about, but in the larger context of Toronto's "condo boom", rather than strictly on architecture. Similar to OCAD's Tabletop.

    And while it's good to consistently keep adding a high profile, critically acclaimed building here and there as part of the overall city-building process, it's the "filler" that matters the most (and that includes any city). And for all the ranting about how predictable our hometown condo architects are getting in their designs, I'd say Toronto's standard quality of filler has become quite good.
     
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  13. Urban Shocker

    Urban Shocker Doyenne

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    According to that cluster of articles about Toronto in the Wall Street Journal last week:

    "Great Gulf is building a 519-unit, Moshe Safdie-designed condominium tower called Monde, with street-level retail space. Condos are running at about $670 per square foot, a relatively hefty price for downtown Toronto. Great Gulf has sold about 41% of its units."
     
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  14. TrickyRicky

    TrickyRicky Senior Member

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    Buildup, perhaps I should back off or clarify my use of the word "status" because there are many currencies of status. What I should say is status through auspicious consumption. The various currencies of status are not well understood and I've considered researching further into that subject area. For instance driving a Hummer is a form of status through auspicious consumption. On the other hand not driving a Hummer or rather choosing not to drive at all is also a form of status not through auspicious consumption but through exceptionalism or self-sacrifice. Or paradoxically, self-sacrific is also a form of auspicious consumption because it displays to others how you are so robust you can self-sacrifice and still be high status. This only works of course if driving is common.

    If we contemplate those ideas and apply them to the subject at hand, architecture and namely star architecture, we can see how a culture where the richest man eats $7 lunches in a food court mall is going to have a different take on status and the built form than a place where the richest man is driven in a gold Rolls Royce and lives in his own private skyscraper. Also, a city where every building must adhere to a rigid design standard elevates the status of a building that is exceptional, while a city where every building is by design exceptional, would elevate the status of a building that is restraint or a district where order prevails.
     
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  15. buildup

    buildup Senior Member

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    Brings to mind "Class, Status, and Style in America" by Fussell. In the book you come across many examples of status being displayed through parsimony avoiding nouveau-riche vulgarity. Perhaps some of this was because "old money" often had "no-money" any more.

    I think some people like to underplay it, because they have managed in other ways indirectly to inform others of their status, so under-selling themselves becomes a form of false humility.

    Warren Buffett is content to tool aorund in his beat-up car because his status is secure and welll known.
     
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