Why We Need to Keep Mirvish & Gehry Tucked Snuggly in Bed Together

Art Gallery of Ontario at dusk. Toronto, Ontar...

Art Gallery of Ontario at dusk. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

More shocking than the  social architecture project being conjured up by two wealthy visionary wizards of our time, is the fact that Toronto, a city that boasts their position on the world stage of urban centres, has a mayor who wants to bring back the plastic bag.

Packed into a few corner inches of the front page of the GTA section of today’s Toronto Star is the not-so-shocking revelation that the most pressing item on Mayor Rob Ford’s agenda at present is to get rid of the plastic bag ban in the city.

This is also the mayor who, instead of finding truly innovative mass transit solutions, is trying to figure out how to allow more vehicular traffic into the city.

In the rural village where I grew up, this would be considered, “Ass backward” thinking. That’s saying a lot, because it was a rather ‘ass backward’ place.

Basically the Gehry/Mirvish marriage proposal consists of a cultural complex which includes three condo towers . According to a Toronto Star article, a potential 10% of the residential area will be dedicated to three-bedroomers as is dictated by new planning strategies. 

It is a proposal only, with much shuddering and fearful beaurocracy waving flags of red tape in the direction of  Mirvish-Gehry forward-thinking parade.

 Mr. Mirvish may have come across as a little high-brow when he said, “I’m not building condominiums. I am building three sculptures that people can live in.” High-brow maybe, but in reality, that’s exactly what he’s doing.

What with Gehry’s Messiah like status in the world of architecture, working on creating truly artistic architecture, including  (excuse the pun) cutting edge technology to build translucent, dream-like glass structures, why shouldn’t Toronto honour its prodigal son?

One of the big concerns is how can the municipal infrastructure accommodate such a huge influx of residents? Roads, sidewalks, power, water…? Well, the straight answer is it can’t. Not as it exists now. Not as it may exist in another twenty years if visionaries with the financial clout don’t take the lead. Whether we like it or not, the city of Toronto needs to make room at the table for millions more.

This city needed to have had a much gutsier, greener plan decades ago. Shut down the streets to traffic, plant grass and trees, and heaven forbid, make proper bike lanes. Give us back the tree-lined boulevard and earth under our toes.

Frank Gehry gave us the new AGO, a building that makes you want to come inside so you don’t have to look at it. Maybe. But once inside, you are given views of the city that inspire introspection, appreciation of the city landscape, and creativity. All of which are a much-needed respite from the hectic pace of the world we live in.

There are studies on the effects of architecture on psychological well-being. How prison design either helps or hinders a prisoner’s behaviour. How efficient and effective workers are in different environments.

Anyone who has ever visited a communist country can tell you plainly how ‘communist architecture’, (concrete block buildings) can declare war on the psychological landscape. Gehry’s designs do anything but declare war. They ask us to look up, to look inward, and to reach out.

 Cities, nations and civilizations that dare not to dream and take risks based on visions of a better future fail. I daresay with the election of Mayor Ford, that the balance hasn’t already tipped greatly in the direction of that failure. 

Toronto is a symptom of the nation’s most chronic illness – extreme apathy.

There are questions about destroying historical landmarks, infrastructure, cost, how the community space will be used.

All I have to say is that art galleries and cultural space paid for by developer’s fees have a lot more to offer citizens than a chain restaurant and a theatre (The Princess of Wales) that has become, by virtue of higher supply than demand, rather mediocre.

I certainly don’t have answers to the thousands of questions that will need solutions. In my opinion I would rather have artists, visionaries and  philanthropists solve  those problems and design our urban spaces than career, ego driven politicians.

My prayer tonight; Please universe, let me prosper so I can live out the final days of my life in the milky glass dream of Frank Gehry. Amen. Hallelujah. Praise the Mirvish legacy.

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