Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Toronto's Waterfront | Adam Arvidson

Over the past few years, I’ve had the privilege of traveling to Toronto and watching the ambitious (but slow) revitalization of that city’s waterfront. Canada’s largest burg has very large plans, backed by billions of dollars and managed by one agency with control over all the public land between the Gardiner Expressway and Lake Ontario.

Waterfront Toronto has called in some big design names, too: Rotterdam-based West 8; Canadian stars Janet Rosenberg, Claude Cormier, and Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg; and perennial national award winners Field Operations and Michael Van Valkenburgh. About half of the major projects have been conceived through international design competitions.

Considering the fact that Toronto’s industrial waterfront is not that unlike Minnesota’s Mississippi River and Lake Superior edges, I got to wondering where our big flashy designs are. True, there was Saint Paul’s Greenberg Plan (now more than a decade old), which continues to guide the city. And there was that 2003 design competition for the Head/Sack House (now a part of the upper landing development). But with just a few exceptions (namely the new Guthrie and Mill Ruins Park), most recent projects have left me wanting more.

Am I wrong? Does anyone have favorites? Frustrations? Should we be having more design competitions?


Anonymous said...

Just think of all the bad starchitect buildings in the midwest. Some are truly gifts... but others are terrible failures. Look at the MIA in each of it's poorily concieved additions.. one addition by the aging and washed up Michael Graves another part by Tange well past his prime. What if that building had been authored by Rapson and Julie Snow instead. What a better building and it would have been. What an expression of Minneapolis talent. What it could have done for those architects and our cultural value.

Tom said...

Cesar Pelli's Wells Fargo tower is a wonderful example of imported architecture as an architectural treasure. However his recent addition to the downtown cityscape is nothing short of terrible. Perhaps the real leason about competitions and starchitects to get contributions that are timely. Cesar has jumped the shark!!!

Brandon Stengel said...
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