Thursday, May 8, 2014

My Toronto is not the mayor - part four

In the core, at least, with the help of subways, streetcars and buses, Toronto is a walkable city. 

Most of my pictures have been taken on long walks I've convinced myself are a substitute for the gym.

Although good buildings have been lost, many remain and combine with new and innovative structures. Here, the 1892 Gooderham Building has a city centre backdrop. When I took the picture, the building immediately to the left of our 'flatiron' was still rising. It's worth Googling the 'L Tower', a condominium designed by architect Daniel Libeskind. As you can see, the building curves out. Now more or less externally complete, the bow is even more obvious, leading to questions - from me, at least -  about what will happen when snow slides off.

The tower of the 1916 North Toronto Railway Station was based on St. Mark's in Venice. The building - wonderfully restored - is now Canada's largest liquor store. In Ontario wine and spirit sales are mainly a provincial government monopoly. The store's but a convenient, two minute stagger from my living room. 

Streetcars ('Red Rockets' in Toronto parlance) clatter past a favourite coffee spot. It's across from the Art Gallery of Ontario. The expanded gallery is the work of Frank Gehry, best-known internationally for his Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. 

Here's an external staircase on the gallery's south side.

The Ontario College of Art and Design's Sharp Centre for Design is just down the street. The building - on twelve steel legs - houses university classrooms.

In the financial core, the steel arches of Brookfield Place are meant to evoke walking under an avenue of trees. The gallery, with superb natural light, often has exhibitions.

The 1960s towers of the Toronto Dominion Centre were Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's last major work. One of the Twentieth Century's most influential architects, his TD Centre helped change the face of a then thoroughly provincial city.

Very early Saturdays, after shopping at our downtown farmers' market, I occasionally sit in the square with coffee and croissant. Usually, I'm alone with the skyscrapers. I remember 1968 and, as a university student, having a summer job in one of these towers at one of Canada's largest stocks & bonds firms. It confirmed that I would likely be more competent as a journalist than investment advisor.

So, Ryerson University's Image Centre naturally appeals. With its wonderful exterior, the 2012 building houses the Black Star collection, nearly three hundred thousand news and feature photographs. Black Star, by the way, is a New York-based photo agency. Life magazine was a major client.

I have a weakness for deco and Life began publishing in 1936, arguably the height of art deco architecture. Soon after, the Toronto Stock Exchange settled into a streamlined moderne building. The medallion is one of a number on the exchange's doors.

The era's design, despite economic devastation, looked to the future, even on a modest Toronto City maintenance building.

Something as mundane as a bus station then had stained glass windows and the most stylish railings. This was taken in the old Toronto Coach Terminal. According to the Toronto Star of the day it was 'designed and built especially and exclusively for the service of interurban motor coach travellers'. Almost makes bus travel sound sophisticated.

Speaking of stylish Thirties railings, these glorious ones are at College Park, once a major Canadian department store.

In the same building, French artist Natacha Carlu created a series of pastoral murals. 

Twenty years later, after shopping for school uniforms, my mother and I would lunch in this room. Natacha's murals looked down as I gorged on ice cream sundaes. An elegant serving cart containing sauces (chocolate, butterscotch, strawberry, marshmallow), nuts and other toppings was brought to the table and a ten-year old could go wild. 

The next two pictures are from the 1928 Concourse Building. The glorious mosaic was created by J.E.H. MacDonald, one of the Group of Seven, Canada's best-known artistic circle.

The sixteen-floor building is no more. It succumbed to the popular Toronto practice of 'façadism'. Demolished (one hopes carefully) the walls will be incorporated in a new glass tower. Preservation of only facades is controversial. It's happening a lot and there are those who say a building's 'soul' is lost.

Here's a structure in one piece. Completion of the splendid Victory Building was delayed by the Great Depression. It finally opened in 1937.

This is a detail from the Bank of Commerce (see 'My Toronto is not the mayor - part two').

The 1939 Pall Mall Apartments sound terribly posh and, in their day, were. Somehow you expect a du Maurier or Noel Coward to have lived there. Being Toronto, sadly not.

A final picture to demonstrate that all is not Toronto concrete, steel and glass. Here is another preferred place to pause on my walks. Hidden behind the undistinguished, even grim, walls of a downtown building is this haven. I sit with a paper cup of coffee and am often happily astounded that I am alone. Where is it? Not telling. You find it.

My attempt to prove that Toronto is not the mayor will continue.