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2008 05 03
Have The Pugs Saved Toronto?

There are buildings in this city that have not earned the right to grace the public realm and It doesn't take an architecture critic to point out the obvious culprits.

That's why when the Pug Awards came to life four year ago, the inner design critic inside many of us found a forum to express its displeasure—very publicly. After all, if a developer is going to blight a neighbourhood for the next fifty years then they at least have to face the Internet equivalent of being tarred, feathered, and run out of town.

The Pugs are back with a new website and a new list of buildings to rank. It is time once again to tell local architects and developers if you think their creations are good or bad. Here’s some advice: don’t hold back.

Why? It is probably a coincidence, but the level of attention to architecture and urban design in the city has inched its way upward over the last few years. Shining a critical, popular light into the world of the developer may just be paying off.

When the good people at Cecconi Simone and Tricon Capital Group launched the Pugs in 2004, they were motivated by a passionate commitment to making Toronto a better place to live. Thankfully, they are succeeding.

This year’s list of 21 nominated buildings includes some favourites. There is, of course, the ROM Michael Lee-Chin Crystal. Love it or hate, Libeskind’s complex vision of a 21st Century museum deserves to be on everyone’s list.

There are some buildings noted—I won’t try to influence your vote by naming them—that never should have been built. In form, detail, and sensitivity to their urban context they fail miserably.
If you have walked anywhere near the railway lands development you know one or two of them.

On the other hand, there are some gems (and since well-designed buildings are obvious, I’ll mention one). The Broadview Lofts project by Turner Fleischer Architects has managed to take a marginalized stretch of the city’s eastern industrial lands and make it pleasurable to visit again.

I often go by this cluster of new and old buildings, and the reaction I have rarely varies. I look at the expanse of glazed walls thinking of how light must play in the loft units behind them. The town homes to the west of the main structure fit well with the old warehouse buildings, and the way they edge the street is workmanlike, but in a considered way.

Why aren’t all developments in the city so well thought through?

Ask yourself that question, then go online and vote LOVE IT OR HATE IT. This year there is even more reason to get involved.

The Pug Awards is launching the Pug Cup, a trophy that will reside at City Hall. Standing 35 inches high, the cup will be engraved with the names of the winning buildings.

To qualify for this year’s awards a building must have been completed in 2007, reside in the old City of Toronto, and be larger than 50,000 square feet in floor area.
Go to the website at http://www.pugawards.com for an interactive tour of all the nominated buildings. Online voting runs from May 1st to the 31st. Winners will be announced on June 4th at last year’s Pug Winner, the Gardiner Museum by KPMB Architects.

If you are a developer who thought design didn’t matter to Torontonians, you still have time before the winners and losers are announced to take that long holiday to South America your accountant told you about.

This story was first published in yesterday's National Post
[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 05/03 at 12:02 PM

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