Toronto Reviewed: AGO

Space is a resource. Architecture is arguably at its best when it uses this resource to bring beauty, social justice, and amenity into the world, but these aspirations often run afoul of the forces of economy, time, or lack of vision. A group of architects met to discuss sites in the city that illustrate the integration of old and new.

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  1. Though the AGO has undergone numerous renovations, memories of the older versions of the structure are suppressed by the new; Frank Gehry's renovation acts as a mask over the Brutalist addition of the 1970s. Glass “wings” and the custom-formed glulam beams on the ends evince a technical virtuosity, with a dynamism that brings flapping sails to mind. Here is a kind of architectural swagger, but it nods to the street corners, too.

  2. Because its height is similar to that of the old Toronto houses across the street, the AGO integrates well into the neighbourhood that surrounds it. Its long glass facade even reflects the adjacent homes while creating a covered promenade at street level—a good-natured gesture on the part of the architects.

  3. Streetcar cables and poles that formerly cluttered this space have disappeared, incorporated into the building in a way that allows for a cleaner facade.

  4. “I hated the blue box when Frank Gehry’s addition first was completed. It reminds me of the protective covering that Asian parents still haven't peeled off their TV.”

    “It's grown on me! I find the hovering mass whimsical, and I love what it does for the new Grange Park, when seen along with Will Alsop’s OCAD. They are like playful boxes that hover in the sky. They give a playful and carefree character to the park that make the park so unique.”

  5. The new, sunken addition on the west side of the AGO by Hariri Pontarini opens up views to the workshops in the lower level with a long horizontal expanse of window. “You always see people down there at the long tables, which I find interesting because it excites you with activity happening in the museum.”

Contributors: Joe Kan, Gloria Iu, Tim Wat
Tim Wat