I had wanted to speak a bit about what I think needs to change in the civic debate for Toronto to stop fretting about its greatness and begin to recognize and enjoy that, for the most part, we are already in the promised land.
So I was going show you how a slightly different approach to reviatlizing the city points the way towards beautifying the city. I originally had quite a bit to say on this.
However, it turns out that both Christoper Hume, the architecture columnist for the Toronto Star and the Mayor, David Miller, had already said most of it here. So I'm just going to show you some of what they were taling about. Think of this as a photoblog on the simple and elegant transformation of a well-known Toronto space - here are the new Princes' Gates.
Hmmm....anyone who lives here will wonder what I'm talking about. They look as they always have, since their Royal Highnesses opened them in 1927.
All I can say in response is, look down.
The asphalt is gone, and has been replaced by tiles. There are also these very attractive light sculptures, entwining their way upwards as their halogen bulbs shine downward.
And then there are these blocks, each for each province and territory. This is the Canadian National Exhibition, after all.
The provincial mottos are inscribed in the pavement next to the granite towards the gate. The photos I took didn't come out very well, so you'll just have to come and see them for yourself.
What about the gates themselves? They haven't been changed, and remain their old neo-classical selves:
A modest homage to Giornale Nuovo (I would have never bothered to look at these if it weren't for the amazing work there!)
So despite the strange landscaping in the picture below, I don't think it's quite time to put this piece of Toronto's architectural history to rest.
A Goildbergian final shot, nearly the same as the first, but transformed by one's knowledge of the new space.
The downside of this transformation is that despite the city's attempts to brand it as a piazza, it will never be much more than pavement for people on their way to the Ex or the Home Show. There will be people like me who live close enough to enjoy the new space, but we will always be few and far between, so Piazza San Marco will it never be.
That's too bad, but I'm hopeful that the quiet elegance of the space will be an inspriation to citizens and city planners. This is a subtle yet dramatic transformation of a beloved public space, and a grander solution to the problems of an unattractive city than building or rebuilding galleries and roadways. This kind of solution signifies a change in mindset here, where open spaces needn't be filled with trees or nature, but can instead be home people and commerce. We've begun to realise this kind of approach with Yonge-Dundas Square, but all I can say is, we need more piazzas!
Creating piazzas (or squares if you disdain the pretension) is a way to improve local neighbourhoods cheaply and effectively. More piazzas, encircled by shops and restaurants, with people seeing each other watch each other eating ice cream on a warm summer's eve would go some way toward undermining the constant sense here in Toronto that we've really botched something.