Battle of Style: Toronto Verses Paris~ Architectural style does Toronto have one???

 On the surface, it looks as if Toronto lacks distinctive, artistic features that are unique to only Ontario’s capital, since the aesthetics of the metropolis resemble a dull, grid-like structure. However, if you stop and look at the city, you’ll note, Toronto is furnished with architectural designs from an assortment of styles and periods. Victorian style hits the Distillery District, St. James Cathedral abides by the Early English Gothic motif, late Palladian style can be seen over at Osgoode Hall, The National Club Building carries a Neo-Georgian structure, St. Lawrence marks the Renaissance period, Beaux-Arts style channels through Union Square, Goode ham office building imitates the Flatiron, 19th century, New York style and Roman and Greek design influences are spilled throughout the city.

Comparing Toronto’s architecture to Paris’s may not be comparable, at least not by myself since I have yet to discover Paris. However, living vicariously through portraits and tales, taken and told, by friends and family, that have stepped foot on the grounds of France’s capital, all conclude that Paris… c’est magnifique! I am quite confident that this compliment caters not only to French food, the wine, the sites, the gardens, the lights but also the architectural landmarks. Perhaps the cycle of demolition and reconstruction keep the buildings in Paris avant-garde and modern whereas, in Toronto “you get the sharp geometry and outlines of modern architecture, but you get the traditional rustic material blended with it, and it makes for a very particular flavor,” says Professor Rodophe el-Khoury, Canadian Research Chair in architecture and urban design, at the U of T. But again, who am I to judge.

For the sake of this article, I chose to make subtle references to Montreal in place of Paris; I have in fact journeyed to Montreal so I can comment, with validity, on their architecture. Plus, Montreal is the world’s largest French speaking city after Paris; it makes for a great stand in.

If you compare high end architecture in Montreal with the high end architecture in Toronto it’s different. You won’t find the commitment to traditional material in Montreal. That’s the Toronto style; it’s a modern architecture, its contemporary, it’s plugged into contemporary trends and debates. But there’s always a way to translate or recover Ontario’s heritage, which is a rural, rooted, land-based culture.                            (Rodophe el-Khoury)

I’m not sure if agree with this idea entirely. Upon visiting Montreal, the must see’s on any classic, self tailor-made tour consists of scrutinizing the oldies but goodies; just to name a few…Bonsecours Market, Château Ramezay, Mary Queen of the World Cathedral, Windsor Station and the artistically polished Notre-Dame Basilica. These landmarks were born in the eighteen hundreds and are still elaborate displays today.  In contrast, Montreal certainly encompasses newness by erecting dramatic buildings on all sides of the city; Olympic Stadium, Montreal’s modern art museum, Montreal’s museum of fine arts, La Gauchetière. However construction of monolithic skyscrapers hasn’t taken place in Montreal since Kriss Kross doled out their debut album. Montreal may lack new ‘newness,’ but the city does a swell job of fusing aged architecture with the young.

The thing with Toronto is, when an abstract building is wedged into the city’s core, heads turn, but not in the right direction, because much of the populace see’s that one architectural design as the chief cause for the city’s rhythm to be offbeat. This was the case upon the completion of the 2008, contemporary design of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). Howard Cohen, Think Developer says “No, it doesn’t fit in Toronto-style-but that’s precisely the point. When the Guggenheim was built in New York, it gave Fifth Avenue a jolt.” Some of the mature, local masses of Toronto may feel that the ROM just doesn’t belong, while someone who thrives on modernity and abstract art may feel this is exactly what the city needs to keep it fresh and to keep Toronto on the map; I am one of those people.

Radiant crystals in the ROM, that’s only the beginning; there are tons of untamed, asymmetrical, transparent building ideas brewing in Toronto’s caldron of high tech civilization. The future of Toronto’s skyline will explicitly draw worldwide attention, as the best names in architecture are flocking to analyze, to idealize, to construct and to aggrandize the city.

What is Toronto’s style? What is Canadian Culture? Both questions are difficult to define yet both share similar answers. Toronto earned the title of being one of the most diverse cities in the world, the same idea can be applied to the architectural design concept; Toronto encompasses flavors and textures, from around the globe.  The city is very cosmopolitan that way. 

And that is our style.                                                                                                                         

Does Toronto take the battle of style crown over Montreal…Indubitably. 

In the past, the words ‘Toronto’ and ‘architecture’ may not have paired up as well as wine and chocolate however,  a new wave of dynamic architecture is marching to Toronto, with more crystals, limestone facades, 80 foot glass cantilever and rotating skyscrapers, what do you think of that Paris!…I mean Montreal.


~ by deliciousnoize on August 19, 2008.

One Response to “Battle of Style: Toronto Verses Paris~ Architectural style does Toronto have one???”

  1. I really enjoyed this article 🙂

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