The Urbanist’s Toronto: Talking Points

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

Photo: Newscom (Ford); Joe Corrigan/Getty Images (Christie)

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.

Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star/Newscom (Lamb); Patrick McMullan (Trump)

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.

Photo: Courtesy of Lynda Reeves (Reeves); Patrick McMullan (Stewart)

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.

Photo: Norm Betts/Bloomberg News/Getty (Thompson); Spencer T. Tucker (Bloomberg)

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.

Photo: Getty Images (1, 2, 3); Maris Mazulis (4); Jason Zytynsky (5); Courtesy of the University of Toronto (6, 7); Courtesy of the Sony Centre (8)
PushelbergPhoto: Mark Mainz/Getty Images for Sofitel

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

YabuPhoto: Mark Mainz/Getty Images for Sofitel

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.

The Urbanist’s Toronto: Talking Points