Last month, we reported on the mammoth new film studio development being installed in the portlands—plans which included a flagship building designed by renowned British architect Will Alsop at the entrance to the complex. Alsop’s renderings were just unveiled, and while not as brash as his OCAD “tabletop” building, the new Filmport landmark will be tough to ignore.
Alsop’s recent motifs (most visible to Torontonians in his West Side Lofts sales office) have involved organic “cloud” shapes and bubble-like orbs, and those elements are also present in the Filmport design.
Swooping lines are meant to allude to the shipping history of the portlands, and while one side is bracketed by what looks like a gigantic, curved red punch card, the opposite is all glass, including a striking four-storey transparent amoeba at grade. The glass blob hearkens back to Alsop’s ill-fated design for a structure in Liverpool, which was canned due to skyrocketing costs, but which the architect also claimed was one of his best. The gloopy window cutouts are similar to those perforating The Public Gallery in West Bromwich, England.
The Filmport structure is intended to be used not only for offices, but for public events and exhibitions in an attempt to create a “convergence district” that incorporates the general public into the new studio district.
Not everyone finds the Filmport design appealing. Robert Ouellette of Reading Toronto calls it “perhaps one of the most poorly considered designs [he’s] seen since leaving the first year architecture studio at university.” Ouellette feels that Alsop likely had something entirely different in mind before he was hobbled by a dwindling budget.
Perhaps, but the building actually shows remarkable utility in its mixed-use plan, and we can imagine it as an iconic centre for film premieres, TIFF parties, and hopefully even some film-related retail stores. Studio lots can hardly be dubbed attractive, with their hangar-like boxes and utilitarian roadways, which is why the Alsop structure should be welcomed. Filmport wanted an arresting entrance to the complex, and they’re getting it.
Of course, Alsop is an acquired taste and Torontonians are only just getting used to the idea of audacious architecture. However, had the waterfront redevelopment included the exact same design intended for an avant-garde art gallery or whimsical children’s facility, we’d guess that many of the naysayers would be celebrating it instead.