Heritage defenders, once again, ask the City to give Mies a chance.
On Tuesday, just 10 months after heritage-preservation advocates lobbied the City’s Sign Variance Committee to deny a request to erect “two illuminated wall signs” on the outside of Bay Street’s Ernst & Young tower (known also as “TD Tower Five”), the issue was back on the table—and with many of the same players.
OCADU professor and modernist-architecture historian Marie-Josée Therrien headed up an appeal last December to overturn a decision by the City’s building division, which would have permitted owner Cadillac Fairview to construct two oversized wall signs on the tower. The City wound up voting against the outsized signage, but left open the possibility for standard-sized signage to be constructed in the future.
Issues related to the appearance of the Ernst & Young Tower are sensitive because the building is part of the TD Centre complex, designed by legendary architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The tower was a late addition to the complex, built after van der Rohe’s death, but in a style similar to his.
Representatives from Cadillac Fairview at Tuesday morning’s meeting of the Sign Variance Committee argued that signage on the tower would help to distinguish it from the rest of the complex, and thus help to maintain its individuality. This drew audible scoffs from the appellants.
“I have a feeling of déjà vu,” said Therrien at Tuesday’s meeting. When she argued against the variance in front of the committee, she cited the Toronto Heritage Board’s recommendation [PDF] that the City conduct a heritage-impact assessment on the application. (The tower doesn’t have heritage designation, but three of the other buildings in the TD Centre complex do.)
The committee voted to defer the final decision for three months.
“It’s good news,” Therrien said afterward, though she had anticipated the outcome. “The battle is not over, but I gather that the applicant is not happy. I think that they were the ones taken by surprise.”
This particular back and forth is not Cadillac Fairview’s first brush with TD Centre–related controversy: over the years, the firm has allowed its individual tenants to replace van der Rohe’s specially designed signage with their own, added notches to the complex’s Miesian granite benches to deter skateboarders, and, more recently, removed a bronze sculpture on the property’s premises.