In today's Globe & Mail: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/serv...DPLACES/TPStory/TPNational/?pageRequested=all
Art Gallery of Ontario
Completion date: 2008
Square footage before: 486,000
(public and back-of-house)
Frank Gehry, the world's most famous living architect, got his first big taste of art and culture in the 1930s when, as a child, he was taken to what was then the Art Gallery of Toronto just north of his grandparents' house. Devotees of karma therefore were extremely pleased when the AGO announced in late 2002 that it had hired
the Los Angeles-based Gehry as the lead architect for an ambitious retrofit and expansion to its 106-year-old site -- Gehry's first-ever major public commission in the city where he was born, in 1929.
Will the renovation -- to house, among other elements, the acquisitions of Kenneth Thomson, Canada's most famous art collector -- do for Toronto what Gehry's Museo Guggenheim has so famously done for Bilbao, Spain? Certainly he's giving architecture buffs lots
to consider, including a massive 425-foot-long exterior canopy
of Douglas fir and glass, as well as a plunging spiral atrium staircase that a former dean of architecture at the University of Toronto is already lauding as being just "so sexy." Gehry thinks it's "the kind
of place where you might meet your future wife." International art lovers, in the meantime, will flock to see The Massacre of the Innocents, a previously unknown Rubens canvas from approximately 1612 that Thomson bought at auction in 2002 for almost $120-million, still a world-record price.
National Ballet School
Completion date: Jarvis Street campus
opened 2005, Maitland Street residences,
Square footage before: 80,000
Ballet schools have the reputation, deserved or not, of being dens of eating disorders. But one of the first things you notice when you stroll into the interior of the new campus of the National Ballet School is the smell of food. That's because the NBS has put its primary food services and lounge area -- collectively called Town Square -- right on the ground floor by the main entrance on Jarvis Street.
"It's about the idea of nourishment," explains administrative director Robert Sirman, "a healthy dancer program against the notion of ballet as a starving profession."
About 180 full-time students attend the NBS each year, with another 800 part-timers taking after-school and weekend classes. Previously, these learners did their pirouettes and pliés in small studios housed in a row of cramped, noisy, Victorian-era buildings. Now they're doing them in 12 airy, light-filled studios, the largest being almost 4,000 square feet -- the same size as the stage of Toronto's Hummingbird Centre.
The high-ceilinged studios are located
in a glassy pavilion, designed by Toronto's Goldsmith Borgal & Co. and KPMB Architects, that artfully weaves alongside and behind two renovated heritage buildings: the former Havergal Ladies' College, built in 1898 and 1901, that served as a major studio for CBC Radio
into the mid-1990s; and Northfield House, a yellow-brick mansion built in
Set for completion next year are renovations to and enlargements of the
old buildings on Maitland Street. These will include dormitories, a dining hall, common rooms and study areas. Clearly if Mao Zedong had been a ballet aficionado, this would have been his idea of a bloodless great leap forward. Or, as the NBS itself calls it, "un grand jeté." -- James Adams
Royal Ontario Museum
Completion date: Late fall, 2006 (Crystal),
spring, 2007 (Heritage Galleries)
Square footage before:
309,796 (public space)
After: 388,239 (public space)
The Royal Ontario Museum has occupied one of Toronto's premier pieces of real estate for close to 100 years, and it's done so with dignity and restraint. With Renaissance ROM, the venerable institution with a permanent collection of more than five million objects is literally thrusting itself into Toronto's city space, thanks to the eye-popping aluminum-and-glass "crystal" that architect Daniel Libeskind first sketched on a cocktail napkin in 2001.
The ROM's official address is still 100 Queen's Park, but with the opening of the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, the museum's public face -- not to mention its dinosaur collections -- will be front and centre on Bloor Street West. While the Crystal's aggressively jagged, glacier-like forms (inspired by Libeskind's fascination with the ROM's mineral collection) are indisputably the museum's new visual signature, the transformation also includes the completion of more than 25 new and renovated galleries in the stately wings that were erected in 1914 and 1933. For Torontonians, the ROM has never lacked landmark status. But its dramatic overhaul, coupled with new programs and the display of heretofore unseen riches, promises to turn it into a major destination.
Royal Conservatory of Music
Completion date: Late fall, 2007
Square footage before: 83,000
Marianne McKenna of KPMB has confessed that being lead architect for the expansion of the Royal Conservatory of Music has caused her to lose a few nights' sleep. It's because the project calls for a lot of stuff to be squeezed onto a tight site. It's hemmed in by the Royal Ontario Museum and a creek-bed path called Philosopher's Walk to the east and University of Toronto lands to the south and west. Dominating it all is McMaster Hall, a historic hunk of red-brick Victoriana that's been the RCM's home since the mid-1960s. To make room for what's now the Telus Centre for Performance and Learning, McKenna is bulking up behind, around and down from McMaster and adjacent Mazzoleni Hall. The centre will include at least 60 new classrooms and studios, a rehearsal hall, a rooftop restaurant, a library, a new-media centre, a climate-controlled space to store the RCM's $1-million collection of vintage instruments and a wired 1,140-seat concert hall that's being hyped as "acoustically perfect." Acoustics were
the big nut cracked by KPMB's $24-million enhancement of Roy Thomson Hall.
The RCM, of course, is a national institution whose programs engage more than 400,000 Canadians a year. One of them
is Aline Chrétien, wife of the former prime minister, who passed her Grade 6 RCM piano exam in 1999 and now serves
as honorary chair of the conservatory's advisory council. She still practises. Another alumnus, Torontonian Ian Ihnatowycz, entertained visions of being a concert pianist in the 1960s, only to go into pharmacology and business administration. Luckily for the RCM, he retained his fondness for music, and gave $4-million to the conservatory. As a result, McMaster and Mazzoleni Halls will collectively be known as Ihnatowycz Hall.
1. Michael and Sonja Koerner Concert Hall.
2. Three glass lobby levels above orchestral studio spaces
3. Studios, classrooms; dressing rooms; storage
4. Entry, box office and rehearsal studios
Completion date: Summer, 2006
Square footage before:
19,000 (public space)
Nestled beside the neoclassical splendour of what was once the University of Toronto's home-economics school, just across the road from the Royal Ontario Museum, the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art has been praised for more than 20 years as a "tiny, perfect jewel box." Now the museum's hoping a much-anticipated renovation and expansion designed by noted Toronto architect Bruce Kuwabara will take it from the "highly admired but insufficiently visited" category into a highly visible, much-frequented showcase of pre-Columbian earthenware, and 18th-century European and 20th-century ceramics, including works by Picasso and Miro. The theme for the Gardiner expansion, "All Fired Up!," may seem a little, well, cranked up for what's going on. As Kuwabara has noted, the Gardiner is already a superb example of "how beautiful small can be." He sees his contribution as an homage of sorts to the original architect, Keith Wagland, who was one of his teachers in Toronto in the 1970s.
New third level
Kuwabara's revamp is highlighted by a new third floor of almost 4,200 square feet, which will feature a natural-light gallery for temporary or travelling exhibitions and a restaurant overseen by Jamie Kennedy, the well-known chef who came to prominence during Toronto's 1980s boom. Expanded educational facilities, including four studios, are being installed in what used to be the museum's underground staff parking lot.
Four Seasons Centre
Cost: $181-million (includes $31-million
land donated by the Ontario government)
Completion date: Summer, 2006
Square footage before: n/a
It's only taken Canada's largest city more than a quarter-century to get its own purpose-built opera house. But good things are supposed to take time, aren't they? Still, when the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts hosts its first concert, in June, it will mark an end of sorts to one of the longest-running soap operas in Canadian cultural history. The building, on the avenue that is Toronto's answer to the Champs Élysées, may not be quite the eye-popping icon that some opera buffs believe should be the pay-off for more than three decades of sweat, tears, rising hopes and dashed dreams, not to mention the vagaries of renting space at the Hummingbird Centre. Most, however, are sighing with relief that the Canadian Opera Company, along with the National Ballet of Canada, finally has a 2,000-seat home where all the sight lines are good and the sound promises to be equal to (or better than) that at the Lyric Opera of Chicago or the Stuttgart in Germany.
The opera house is being pitched as an accessible "people place" -- an aspiration perhaps best exemplified by the high glass curtain wall for the main lobby that runs parallel to University Avenue. Signifiers
of pomp and circumstance -- red velvet, gilt, dark wood, ornamentation -- are also absent in the horseshoe-shaped R. Fraser Elliott Hall. At the same time, it's not entirely bereft of swank: There's a Grand Ring of 21 boxes that can hold anywhere from two to 12 patrons, plus access
to a private lounge, bar and washrooms. The boxes also have individual light and sound locks. Which means they're the only places in the hall where you can enter and leave a production at your discretion. Cost? Oh, $100,000 might get you on the list, but if you really want to clinch a spot, a $5-million cheque should do it.