Gehry’s Guide to Toronto

November 20, 2013

The celebrated architect Frank Gehry is in Toronto this week to smoke crack give advice to city council over an application to demolish some “heritage buildings” to make way for large towers (which he has designed).

Not surprisingly, Gehry is in favour of demolishing whatever is currently on the site of the proposed towers. But I was a little surprised when he began to enumerate the city’s buildings — just two! — which in his judgement should be protected from demolition: our old city hall (certainly not our new city hall!) and Osgoode Hall, home of the Law Society of Upper Canada. Now, this list is incomplete in important ways, but it is notable that Gehry did not list the Art Gallery of Ontario, which he himself designed to much mystifying fanfare a few years ago. This seems to be a case of refreshing honesty. His sketch for that project must surely be a minor classic in the annals of modern architecture:

At the Art Gallery of Ontario, one can actually buy souvenirs with this “design” on them. Did I mention that Gehry is a celebrated architect?

Later in his address, he let slip his reasons for saving particular buildings from the wrecker’s ball, and they may not survive public scrutiny. “I think you should preserve [Old] City Hall because I used to go there when I was a kid,” he argued. He then added, “the old General Hospital building I was born in should have been sacred. It was torn down.” He did not mention whether he used to lunch at Osgoode Hall.

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