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The Rob Ford Mayoralty: Architecture/Design/Heritage/Planning discussion thread

adma

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...just to initiate one; because there *hasn't* been one yet, yet the implications of his mayoralty on such issues are definitely worth discussion. (Especially as they've been hitherto swamped elsewhere on UT by dueling bigot accusations or transport talk.)

I've already framed the mayoral race as one between the "architectures" and the "design/builds"; but I'll leave the rest up to you to chime in (and I'll do so on occasion as well--indeed, some of my thoughts borderline play into rather than oppose Ford-ian precepts, though I'm not sure whether he's got the depth to notice)
 

Urban Shocker

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Only slightly tangential, I believe: Under the supposedly design and arts-friendly Miller administration, Toronto continued to have one of the lowest levels of municipal arts funding of any major city on this continent, so it will be interesting - in a "how low can we go?" sort of way - to see what happens next. However, I don't share the automatic mood of doom and gloom that says we're heading into a creative and cultural tailspin as a result of this election; given the unenthusiastic attitude of all levels of government ( the present Feds, for instance ) towards Toronto's art scene we're nevertheless living in an energized and creative community that seems resourceful and resilient. Government seed money may have got our recent cultural building boom going, but it was overwhelmingly financed by private and corporate donors - and by the public who've been bitten by the arts bug and who go to these venues. Sometimes ( Britain under Thatcher comes to mind ) adversity encourages a creative and critical stance.
 

Towered

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I agree US. Though obviously the city government will likely support the arts even less under Ford, it would be silly to assume that his mayoralty will cause the creative scene to stall or go into decline. It could be argued that the best art is produced through adversity.
 

adma

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Though we're going in a bit of a more generic arts-funding tangent here.

But the funny thing is how, at least in the abstract, Ford's "restraint logic" can intersect with my own--that is, reflecting my own skepticism t/w an overwrought obsession w/grand (or "grandly designed") public projects as a panacea. Like when it comes to Nathan Phillips Square, the PLANT renewal scheme may be terrific, the green roof well received and all--but if we were to turn back time to 2005ish, if it were all about Ford-pleasing "restraint", I'd have found a straightforward status-quo spiffup and restoration perfectly fine, no need to set up an international competion or anything. Of course, it wouldn't satisfy those grey-concrete-haters for whom "the status quo wouldn't do"; but, hey. Likewise, I'm not as hung up over the so-called "banality" of the Jack Diamond aesthetic as some around these parts...and of course, Diamond designed Ford's current media-propaganda-central, Corus out by Sugar Beach. Sometimes, it's worth taking a deep breath rather than overagonizing over Toronto being unimaginative dullsville that needs this-or-that to be the equal of Barcelona or Amsterdam or wherever.

The trouble, as always, is that the logic I'm offering may still be too "smart" for Ford to comprehend. Like, he's the sort who'd opt for decimating rather than restoring NPS, or who'd find Jack Diamond still too "arty" by half. Indeed, I wonder whether he'd opt to abolish "frills" like the Design Review Panel--certainly, I can see him fasttracking the demolition at Yonge + Gould or even pushing ahead with heavyhanded Brantfordian clearcut tactics on other stretches of Yonge...
 

Tewder

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Excellent points, US!

Adma, what may be interesting to watch for is not necessarily the effect of Ford on architecture and design in terms of policy and funding etc (for we can alll reasonably speculate on this) so much as the effect of how the architecture/design/arts communities react to it, and how private interests and development respond in turn. Miller's grand designs seemed to fall on deaf ears, igniting little passion and inspiration. For all the design panels, city-beautiful initiatives and mega-project donor campaigns pragmatic D&S desgin and Clewes neo-minimalism have been the order of the day. Could a dull, conservative and parsimonious Ford regime inspire the opposite? Could we see a return to the outré, to frivolous opulance? and how would this look as interpreted in the 2010s by the art and design community of Toronto?
 

JasonParis

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Has Ford ever spoken about issues such as public spaces and design review panels, etc.? Even at the Heritage Toronto debate it was all off-topic "gravey train" responding to people's questions.
 

junctionist

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In terms of the arts, the election of Rob Ford is just golden for satire and all sorts of political pieces. We need art that's more invested in our society and politics and unafraid to be critical, art that gets everyone from downtown to the suburbs talking. It could be much more popular and lucrative.

As for architecture and planning, Rob Ford has shown in debates that he's ignorant and uninterested, and that heritage could mean infringing on the rights of property owners.
 

adma

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Has Ford ever spoken about issues such as public spaces and design review panels, etc.? Even at the Heritage Toronto debate it was all off-topic "gravey train" responding to people's questions.

I think there seems to be a "shhhh...don't remind him" principle in effect. (And there's so many other cans of worms begging to be opened up, like--as I've suggested elsewhere--"evict the Toronto Islanders.)

But again, there's a lot superficially about what's brought in Rob Ford that parallels what brought in David Crombie four decades ago: the "call for restraint" factor, especially (and it's worth noting that in both cases, it was a Tory mayor replacing a retiring New Democratic mayor)
 

Urban Shocker

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Could a dull, conservative and parsimonious Ford regime inspire the opposite? Could we see a return to the outré, to frivolous opulance? and how would this look as interpreted in the 2010s by the art and design community of Toronto?

He'd more likely see bargain basement cheddingtonista kool as his administration's house style, I think.
 

Observer Walt

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My guess is that these issues will be of relatively little direct concern to Ford and those immediately around him. He will have little interest in impacting on architecture and design in the private sector. There may be some impact in public sector projects. The one that comes to mind is the proposed four-level "layer cake" arena project in the Portlands, which won't go ahead in that form, but that's maybe not such a bad thing.
 

adma

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The one that comes to mind is the proposed four-level "layer cake" arena project in the Portlands, which won't go ahead in that form, but that's maybe not such a bad thing.

Unless it means this kind of thing instead

mccentreoutside700.jpg


Renders all of that UT Jack-Diamond-banality-bashing moot.
 

Towered

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Adma, that's that new hockey rink in south Etobicoke on Kipling, isn't it? I drove by it recently and must say that I was disgusted by not only how utterly cheap it looks, but also that it completely ignores the street and its surroundings. Ugh. The only good thing I can say is that at least the parking lot was placed behind the building.
 

adma

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Well, if we're thinking of "architecture" vs "design/build", that's the ultimate product of the "design/build" mentality--though Giffels might be the so-called class of the design/build trade (hey, their origins are not unlike Albert Kahn et al). Just a straightforward hockey arena, no frills--the city can't afford it, though MasterCard can afford sponsoring it).

Maybe there should be some way of driving into his fat-fvcked skull that that isn't good enough (would the Design Review Panel have jurisdiction in such matters?)
 

Observer Walt

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The Master Card building, which I have been past on many occasions (and inside once or twice) is not too bad, IMO, as arenas go. An arena is by its nature a large and enclosed warehouse-like building. I'm not sure to what extent it can really "address the street". Even the ACC doesn't really address the street in any meaningful way, unless you take into account the auxiliary commercial space, which most arenas obviously would not have.

Design questions aside, the real problem with the proposed Portlands building is that it has been costed at $88 million, and if you believe it would actually be built for that, you are frankly naive. To a Ford supporter, as he goes into his local arena in the burbs which is 40 years old and hasn't had any updating for at least 20 years, it's hard to see how this expense is justified, just for the sake of a vague concept called "good design" in a ... wait for it ... downtown neighbourhood.

The building in the Portlands won't be built, in the proposed 4-layer form. I think you can count on that.
 

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