Re: Chief planner skeptical of Mirvish/Gehry project, Oct. 7
Another possible loss of historic Toronto is a loss for all of us as citizens
Yet again Toronto developers put money before common wealth. I am abhorred to hear that David Mirvish is going to sacrifice another piece of our common heritage for the sake of personal profit and a questionable esthetic value of Frank Gehry’s projected condo towers.
It is not that Gehry’s project should not have a place in Toronto; it is just that the place has been chosen in the wrong location. It is thus incomprehensible why an architectural landmark should disappear in order “to fulfil the ambitions” of the world-renowned architect.
Admittedly, Toronto is not the most beautiful city in the world, but it has preserved a valuable historic cityscape (yes, all these warehouses are both beautiful and precious from historical point of view). And this common heritage is under an increasing threat from greedy developers.
This is not a purely architectural question or a partisan concern of a single interest group of esthetic snobs and retrograde preservationists. This is a question of city spirit, a city pride — in itself and its diverse heritage — and after all it involves a common public sphere that we all share.
It seems, however, that many people just do not get it. Where are mass protests against demolitions of Toronto’s historic legacy? Where are the media? The Star abundantly quotes Mr. Mirvish, an interested side, instead of giving space to numerous critics — city planners, architects, and civic activists — who almost by default represent public interests.
It is time to designate the area between King and Queen streets as a historical zone where most buildings should become protected against demolitions and where monstrous condo towers should not be allowed altogether.
Why cannot Mr. Mirvish and others understand that Torontonians and tourists are driven to the city’s historic core (call it downtown) not because of (mostly) dreadful glass and steel towers but rather because of the city’s unique spirit that is best preserved in historical buildings coming from the times when our cities still had human dimensions.
What is more important for Toronto (and for any city for that matter) — capitalist greed or a common civic space in which everybody feels comfortable? Why haven’t we learnt a lesson taught by the late Jane Jacobs? Do we need another American “crazy lady” to start the movement or at least a serious conversation in the mainstream media?
I hope the Star understands that if they don’t jump in to protect the city, Toronto will eventually turn into a giant condo-slum where no one wants to live or spend time. We should at least start the conversation. And the threatened King St. can be a good starter.
Serhiy Bilenky, Historian, University of Toronto
Christopher Hume’s remarks on most urban issues are often practical. But not his continuing promotion of David Mirvish’s plans for King St. near John in Toronto. Hume belittles Toronto’s chief planner because he doesn’t like her take on the proposal. But Toronto’s planner has it right as do many other proud Torontonians.
The projet de grandeur would be a burdensome imposition of still more density on the infrastructure. The Mirvish contributions to the city can be acknowledged as can Frank Ghery’s fame without three new towers in the vibrant theatre district. Egos at play should be discouraged.
The Mirvish legacy in Toronto is firm and admirable. It doesn’t need a folly. And if anything reveals the pedestrian and provincial perspective that Hume abhors it is the need to erect an obscenity in an area that works and is alive with people.
“To turn heads around the world” is a sophomore idea worthy of those who argue an NFL franchise would improve the city.
Bruce Diana Rogers, Seagrave (King’s Bay)