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2005 04 01
Frank Gehry’s Connection to the AGO
imageWalker Court will be the soul of the transformed Art Gallery of Ontario. Frank Gehry’s done that by design. The way in which you will experience the building relates back to Walker Court, wherever you are in the building. If you’re in the Contemporary Centre you’re looking down on the court. If you’re in the European Galleries you are around the corner from Walker Court. If you’re in the Canadian galleries you have to go through the stairs in Walker Court to get to the second floor. Wherever you are, Walker Court is your anchor.

I still remember, early on, sitting and talking with Frank two years ago. I asked where his artistic epiphany happened – “where was it you realized a life in art was possible”? He said it happened in Walker Court, looking at a painting by the American modernist, John Marin. He described it as an intense moment of looking at this art and feeling the architecture. He would have been about 12 or 13 years old. His memory of Walker Court is that it happened here and no one’s going to mess with Walker Court. In fact, he’s hardly changing it. He’s making it the heart of the architecture.

There’s a real sense of Toronto as a lived place for Frank. That translates directly into the notion of what this place can be. And so it is for me. I’m from Toronto, and the AGO is the museum of my childhood. I came here often as a kid with my dad. When I think about the AGO today, I’m seeing doubly or triply, as a 12-year-old, as an 18-year-old, and now, as the (aging) Director. When there is a place you have experienced certain things, you remember what they meant to you as a child, what that connection was, what that place of wonder was and is today. However you translate it as a kid, you remember it as an adult. I still remember the amazement at the AGO as a place of creativity.

The same is true of Frank. He doesn’t just see the AGO as an architectural problem because he has the skill of an architect and can solve it in an adult way. He’s also seeing it filled with wonder because he’s seeing it with the eyes of a child. I have postcards of the AGO from the 1930s and1940s. They show the entrance Frank used as a child. When Frank walks into Walker Court he doesn’t see what’s there today. The ability to see something through different points of view and different points in your life allows you to be more empathetic with the people who are going to see the building, use the building... I think it strengthens the ability to create that sense of wonder.

Walker Court, 1926 © 2005, Art Gallery of Ontario
[email this story] Posted by Matthew Teitelbaum / AGO on 04/01 at 10:00 AM

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