This isn't an artistic photo. Excuse me while I rant for a moment...
Queen Street is one of Toronto's most important roads, possibly more so within the city proper than the world-famous Yonge Street. Queen street runs east - west through Toronto's vibrant downtown, major arts and culture districts, some of the most historic buildings in the city, and Toronto's civic heart (City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square). Queen Street is also one of the most significant retailling streets and is well connected by subways. What a great place to build a monument to the performing arts in Toronto -- Toronto's new Opera House.
Take a look at this map: http://www.flashearth.com/?lat=43.650985&lon=-79.385566&z=18.8&r=16&src=msa
Accross from the Opera house (immediatley behind me when I took this photo) is Osgoode Hall, home to this day of the Upper Canada Law Society, one of Canada's oldest institutions which has some of the most beautiful grounds and buildings in the city. Next to Osgoode Hall is Toronto City Hall built by Viljo Revell, the most impressive modernist pieces of architecture built in Canada with a popular public square -- a major attraction with tourists and Torontonians alike. Finally, the opera house is built adjacent to one of the busiest subway stations in Toronto.
It occurs to me that the architect of Toronto's new opera house, Jack Diamond (who I must say did a fantastic job on the interior of the space), seemed to forget, or simply not realize, that this building has two facades (at least). The critical Queen Street facade, and the University Avenue facade are each of equal importance. Rather than working with, leveraging, and turning the challenge of having two facades into an opportunity on this former parking lot site, Mr. Diamond has developed an inward-looking building that fails to interface with the street in any way what so ever, save a window for displaying Land Rovers and another showing an interior fire-exit corridor. From this view I would rather have the parking lot back. (The second floor does provide visitors to the Opera House a great view of Osgoode Hall, too bad Osgoode hall looks at the above view in return!).
The University Avenue side is nice, nothing flashy, a very modest building that again highlights its interior spaces as shown through its glass front. I have no specific issue with that side of the building.
Some have argued that it is impossible to build a nice theatre with more than one facade, or that it is far too expensive. I have to remind them that we have a great example of a theatre with multiple facades right here in our very own city. The Isabel Bader Theatre, a gift of Alfered Bader to the University of Toronto, was designed by architect Peter Smith. He had to build a structure that faced outward to the street on one side while also designing a second facade to engage the interior of the campus. Moreover he was told that it had to be built on a lot the size of a tenis court (it was a tenis court) and that it had to sit at least 500 people -- a very challenging venture! Every one of these criteria were met.
I don't blame Jack Diamond entirely. The Canadian Opera Company, unlike the University of Toronto, failed to set some strict design standards for their new building -- or at least it would seem that way. I also wonder where the City of Toronto was when this was built, and how it got approved like this -- they deserve some blame also.
We have officially destroyed a potentially great opportunity to build something truely grand, tuely important, on this intersection for decades to come. I do hope that one day this facade is redesigned, and if that is impossible that the entire building be demolished and something else be built that reflects the importance of this intersection -- a building that actually interacts with the streets around it.
For those reading this in Toronto, I'm not a fan of the ROM Crystal either, but that is a matter of personal aesthetic preference -- I have a great deal of respect for how that building was designed to engage the street, and interact with people. I may not like the design but I have a great deal of respect for the ROM's architect, Daniel Libeskind, for at least taking the street into consideration.
A final note, I am an urbanist and am a trained city planner and geographer. Perhaps an architect reading this would have a different view. I am curious to know. Please comment! In fact everyone please comment and let me know what you think!
*this blog, and all of my photos and comments represent at all times my personal opinion and do not reflect the views of any organisations or firms that I am affliated with.
|exposure mode||aperture priority|