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The Urbanist’s Toronto: Talking Points

Separated at Birth?
National Post columnist Shinan Govani pairs Toronto eminences with their U.S. doppelgängers.

Ford is the city’s most divisive mayor in decades, appealing largely to the conservative, tax-hating suburbs by promising to halt the “gravy train” at City Hall. At close to 300 pounds, he’s a sight to behold in the tight-fitting high-school-football jacket he wears all too often.

The condo kingpin possesses not only a Trumpian worldview but also an iconic pate, a growing roster of flashy developments, and a reality show (Big City Broker). Plus, he likes to flaunt the good life; he’s often spotted around town behind the wheel of a giant Bentley.

Reeves has the magazine (Canadian House & Home), the newspaper columns, the TV show, the home-product lines, the white kitchen, the icy smile, and the ability to torment her staff without letting a perfectly straightened hair fall out of place.

The Thomson Reuters chief is Canada’s wealthiest citizen (several billion richer than Bloomberg, his main competitor in the financial-news game). Unlike Mike, however, he’s a bit of a recluse who favors cargo shorts and a hands-off managerial approach.

Love the Gehry, Hate the Libeskind
Toronto interior designers George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg opine on the skyline’s newest additions.


Pushelberg: Let’s start with the (1.) Royal Ontario Museum addition (100 Queen’s Park), by Daniel Libeskind.


Yabu: He took his eye off the ball. The city got seduced by this idea of a wonderful crystal, and it ended up being covered in hideous siding.

Pushelberg: It’s a bit of bullshit. One of these napkin-drawing things. It’s a clumsy shape on an old, beautiful building.

Yabu: Especially compared with the (2.) Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas St. W.), by Frank Gehry, who, by the way, grew up just a couple of blocks away and whose building is a lot more poetic and sensitive.

Pushelberg: He took a mediocre building, made it ethereal, and solved its existing architectural problems.

Yabu: I really admire Will Alsop’s bravado and inspiration across the street at the (3.) Ontario College of Art and Design University (100 McCaul St.). He built this over a block of Victorian townhouses and preserved the feel by suspending the studios in the air. The materials aren’t perfect, though—it’s Kleenex-box heavy.

Pushelberg: Yeah, but it’s sweet and cartoonish.

Yabu: Compare that to the (4.) Toronto International Film Festival’s Bell Lightbox theaters and Cinema Tower condos (350 King St. W.), which is a big bunch of nothing.

Pushelberg: You have to have a message.

Yabu: Like the (5.) Absolute Condos (50–70 Absolute Ave.), these curvy, sculptural towers [by Chinese architect Yansong Ma] in the suburb of Mississauga. They look great, and they’ve got some balls!

Pushelberg: A hidden gem is the (6.) Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research (160 College St.), at the University of Toronto, co-designedby a local firm, ArchitectsAlliance, and Behnisch, from Germany.

Yabu: It’s transparent, has trees going through the upper floors, is very subtle, and leads into the landscaping around it.

Pushelberg: I think it actually works better than Norman Foster’s (7.) Leslie L. Dan Pharmacy Building (144 College St.), right in front of it.

Yabu: That’s the thing with buildings next to each other: The contrastcan be severe. Like the Libeskind-designed L Tower condo (38 The Esplanade) under construction, which is a big, honking lowercase L next to the (8.) Sony Centre for the Performing Arts (1 Front Street E.), a very elegant sixties building.

Pushelberg: I hate when they glue stuff onto other buildings.

Yabu: Well … condos can be gross.


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