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2008 03 11
Dominant Landscapes: Crushing Dundas Square

My travels through the city yesterday were bracketed by two contrasting views of Toronto. The first—as depicted by the image above—embodied a Canalettoesque vision of a shining city on the horizon—one full of promise. Here the city is a calm thing. It finds its place in a comfortable landscape. Tamed. The fact of the place may not carry through on its promise, but we want it to.


The second vision is shown above. The human foreground space is gone. The visceral strength of the architecture dominates—which could be good if the architecture was as considered as the square it frames. But it isn't. The new building at the North-East corner of Yonge and Dundas is, perhaps, one of the worst examples of commercial building the city has had to endure in the past generation. Its placement at one of our most public intersections if not a crime, is as close as a designer can get to one without taking up mugging the unsuspecting people who walk by. What were the architects and developers thinking—if we clad the building in neon it will be beautiful?

Oh, here is what they were thinking:
Toronto Life Square has a number of exterior and interior signage opportunities available both for temporary advertising campaigns, as well as for permanent sponsorship placement. As a destination venue, Toronto Life Square is one of a kind. Media is an integral part of the Toronto Life Square experience. With outdoor, indoor, digital and static signs, each one is part of a media environment that attracts, directs and inspires visitors to Yonge-Dundas Square and to Toronto Life Square. Toronto Life Square promises to have all of the best elements of Times Square and Picadilly Circus, with the latest in video technology.

If there were one building in the city that should be leveled and rebuilt it is this one. It self-consciously alludes to Zeidler's Eaton Centre across the road, Times Square, and maybe the Pompidou in Paris (sorry to these buildings and places for relating them in any way to this). But those references are made in the most ham-handed way as to be laughable. What are those permanently fixed radiator fans for anyway? For the price the developer paid to mount them there they could have spent a few dollars more on someone who could design a building worthy of such a public square.

My day started off with a vision full of promise. Most of the city I embraced afterwords did not deny me that hope. This one did. It crushes the public space that is Dundas Square and will be a blight on the city for a generation to come.
[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 03/11 at 12:12 PM

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