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.