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Frank Gehry Talks About His Plans for King Street West

The architect told reporters more about the development proposal he's working on with David Mirvish.

Famed architect Frank Gehry was in Toronto this morning to tell reporters more about the massive high-rise complex he and David Mirvish are trying to bring to King Street West.

Behind a lectern at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Gehry described his plans for the three-tower, 80- to 85-storey complex. If completed as described, the new buildings would occupy an entire block north of King Street West, including the current location of the Mirvish-owned Princess of Wales Theatre, which would be demolished. The plan will need to go through a lengthy approval process with the City before it can proceed.

Gehry warned the media that the models and renderings that are being disseminated by Mirvish’s publicity agents are preliminary. “You have to realize that it’s precarious to show projects like this and make them look finished,” he said, “because they look like finished buildings. Well, believe me, they’re not. In fact, the base sketches…are far from finished. These are works in progress.”

The proposed design consists of two street-level podiums—Gehry said they would be six storeys tall—with three condo towers jutting out of them. Each of the towers would be 80 to 85 storeys tall. The podiums would house a number of cultural amenities for the public, including an OCAD University facility and a free museum that would feature items from Audrey and David Mirvish’s collection of fine art.

The height of the proposed buildings is bound to cause controversy, as is Gehry’s proposed façade for the street-level part of the complex. As currently conceived, it consists of a number of criss-crossed elements that look like crumpled paper. “Somebody on one of the blogs referred to them as garbage,” said the architect at this morning’s press conference. “Trust me, they’re not garbage. We’re trying to connect horizontally and have that vertical expression.”

Gehry is originally from Toronto. He spent some of his childhood around the corner from the Art Gallery of Ontario at his grandmother’s house, which used to be at 15 Beverley Street until it was torn down, recently, to make way for a condo building.

In 2008, Gehry finished his first Canadian commission: a redesign of the AGO, complete with a new façade that has received favourable notice from critics and the public.

David Mirvish is the son of “Honest” Ed Mirvish. He’s a former art dealer who is currently best known as the owner of Mirvish Productions, a live-theatre company.


  • Rowan

    Who is the local architect that Gehry’s firm is partnering with? Did anyone ask?

    • Rob R.

      Jenga and Lego.

  • Anonymous

    That podium is ugly.

    • Paul Lloyd Johnson

      That podium is beautiful.

      • Anonymous

        No, it’s hideous.

        • Eric S. Smith

          If it could actually look that ridiculous in reality — ragged, crumpled streamers angling up, what, 20 stories? — it would be beautiful. But the laws of physics and the budget will intervene.

          And of course those enormous illuminated panels of abstract art will in reality end up being jeans ads.

  • Rob R.

    The design IS garbage and Mirvish and Gehry are out of touch with reality.

    Stop raping Toronto’s history and focus on some preservation for a moment!

    Look at the restoration jobs done in the Distillery District and EQ3 -beautifully done without pissing on what was.


    • Michael DiFrancesco

      Okay, there are decent arguments against building this condo, but “raping Toronto’s history” is about as hyperbolic as you can possibly get for a twenty-year-old theatre and some decent but unspectacular century buildings. Come on.

      • Rob R.

        “Century buildings” -however unspectacular you feel they are -ARE Toronto’s heritage and they are constantly being replaced by unimaginative ugly glass and steel blocks.

        Look at the amazing preservation in New York and Chicago.. and then gaze upon the crap that’s being allowed to overtake Toronto.

        Canada’s Cultural Minister must be asleep.

        • Michael DiFrancesco

          So is there any particular reason to keep these buildings? The fact that they’re a hundred years old is, unfortunately, not a sufficient reason. We have hundreds, if not thousands, of century-old buildings across the city, and many of those buildings have a greater claim to Toronto’s heritage than any necessarily do here. And those buildings are being preserved, more often than not, on the basis of their historical claim.

          If there’s a good, historical reason to keep these buildings, then I’m all ears. But you need to be making the argument on that particular ground, for these specific buildings. If your argument is any old building should be preserved at the cost of much-needed density in downtown neighbourhoods, then I find it entirely unconvincing.

          • Rob R.

            My argument is that razing the old for unnecessary and ugly is wrong.

            In addition to losing more of Toronto’s history and heritage the decimation of the ‘restaurant row’ area of King is inevitable during the construction of this monstrosity -which despite the obtuse Mirvish assertion that ‘he’s not building condos’.. are 3 more uninspired condos in a neighborhood that can’t take anymore.

            “Much needed density”?! Do you live in the core? Do you work or commute in the core? I doubt it very much.

            It’s time for the Toronto’s City Planning office to actually start *planning* the city.

        • Anonymous

          If Chicago was as hardcore preservationist as you want Toronto to be, they wouldn’t have their remarkable mix of urban architecture from different eras: from Chicago School to midcentury stuff by Mies, stretching to the present day Millennium Park.

    • Anonymous

      I agree. We should have kept Toronto exactly the way it was in the 1800s and never build like then rest of the world does. After all, cities are meant to be giant museums after all. Right?

      That was sarcasm if you couldnt tell.

      • Rob R.

        @vistarox:disqus: That’s not what I’m saying. And your sarcasm belies little understanding of what’s being lost.

        I see a lot of fantastic.. and a lot wrong. Sticking to Toronto -120 Yonge St. is a fantastic example of how to preserve and restore without destruction. I have no idea what’s going in once they complete the reno..but I do know it looks beautiful.

        That is how it’s done -with care and respect -not a bulldozer.

        • Anonymous

          I’m sorry but there is nothing spectacular about these buildings. Toronto has countless buildings that are hundreds of years old but the vast magority have no historical value at all. Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s worth perserving. Toronto needs to move with the times and stop being afraid to tear down the old to build the new. It’s the only way our city will move forward. Of course we should perserve buildings that have historical significance, but everything else should be torn down.

          • Anonymous

            We’ve already torn down a lot of historic buildings, how can we then use the excuse that these aren’t historic enough to keep? Nothing historically significant may have happened there, but they are aesthetically significant. They are examples of a style and time locked in stone, and that value will increase the longer they are preserved.

          • Anonymous

            Look at Tokyo, a city thats infinitely more historical than Toronto. I’m sure that they had allot of old buildings, but unlike many here in Toronto the people of Tokyo realized that just because it’s old doesn’t mean that it should be perserved.

            Now look at Tokyo, even with countless ancient buildings gone the city is still very historical while at the same time gaining a new modern character. It was a win win situation.

            Remembering our history is important. But we should never compromise our future to hold onto the past.

          • Anonymous

            Most of the historical buildings in Tokyo were destroyed in the second world war.

          • Anonymous

            The comparison works against your point. Tokyo has a much longer history than Toronto and so, WW2′s devastation aside, has more historical structures to pick and choose from.

            While I don’t know what the preservation process is like in Japan, in Toronto it seems to consist of two stages: take forever to designate something as historical, and then neglect it until it falls down on its own (or someone burns it down).

          • Anonymous

            But it’s undeniable that the new Gehry building would be architecturally important (however ugly some might find it). As far as heritage value is concerned, it’s at least an even trade, especially if you imagine how the buildings will be viewed another 50 to 100 years from now. It’s not like they’re proposing to knock those buildings down and put in a Wal-Mart.

          • Anonymous

            Why wait 50-100 years for the new buildings to take on value when we can wait 10-20 years for the existing ones to be appreciated for what they are?

            Should we tear down the Mies van der Rohes because their replacements may, in 80 years, be regarded as just as significant?

            It’s just as likely we’ll end up viewing the new buildings with the disdain we have for concrete Brutalism or 80s brown/orange/pink aesthetic, and cheer for their eventual destruction. It’s also debatable that they’d ever be considered architecturally important – what significant advancement or distinction will they embody that isn’t already found in other Gehry buildings?

            I’m not arguing for preservation for these three buildings specifically, I don’t know anything about them or how prevalent their style is in the area/city, I’m just arguing that “historically significant” isn’t the only reason to preserve older buildings.

          • Anonymous

            The TD center is exactly what I had in mind. Here is a picture of one of the buildings they knocked down to build it: a nice-looking bank headquarters from 1912. Other buildings on the site dated from the 1860s. Is Toronto better for having the TD center, or would it have been better off keeping the old buildings?

            Here’s the block that we’re talking about knocking down: 1, 2. Hard to argue that Toronto will miss these.

          • Anonymous

            What I’m saying is the same argument could/may have been made in favour of tearing down that nice-looking bank: there are hundreds of them around the city, it isn’t apparently historically significant, so why keep this one?

            There was no guarantee that we’d appreciate what replaced those buildings, as there’s no guarantee down the line that we’ll value these Gehry towers more than what might have been preserved.

          • Rob R.

            @vistarox:disqus and @google-6feaee8c8917f48a9c6733157bf3e906:disqus -I’m inclined to believe that you both also think Greedo shot first.

            Wrong is wrong. I have to go open a window to let some of your wrong out.

            Classic will always be cooler.

            Enjoy your “Special Edition” of Toronto. I hear Jabba plays the mayor.

  • Anonymous

    That’s starchitect to you, Torontoist.

  • Anonymous

    Save The Princess of Wales Theatre! Please!

    • Anonymous

      Why? From what I understand it was only a temporary theatre. Plus Toronto has far more theaters than can be occupied by viewers. And its nice to finally see some beautifully designed condos on our skyline.

  • AL

    If this gets approved, it will be great for Toronto. Toronto can learn something from Chicago. Chicago has a fine balance of classical and modern architecture. As long as the project is architecturely stunning, height shouldn’t even be an issue. Although I think the proposal would look better is 2 building were 60 stories, and have 1 massive 90 to 100 storey tower which tops out First Canadian Place.

  • Ken McCartney

    I’m just happy they are at least trying something bold. I’d rather have ugly than another building that looks exactly like the one next to it.

    • Anonymous

      Everything above the podium looks pretty generic to me.

      • Anonymous

        It looks like a stack of egg cartons with some litter stuck on, accompanied by an octagenarian Mister Rogers.

  • Ranzy

    Frank Gehry …. he’s the equivalent to IKEA furniture. Overrated…

  • Anonymous

    Here are some full shots of the towers with podium. Generic ultra-modern jumbled blocks of glass. And they don’t even complement
    each other the way the Marilyn Monroe towers in Mississauga, for example, do.

  • John Andrew Simone

    The AGO was not his first Canadian commission. He did a small winery in Niagara Region. Le Clos Jordan winery in Canada’s Niagara peninsula