Gehry scales back Canadian skyscraper
scheme to be "more Toronto"

Toronto skyscraper complex by Frank Gehry

News: Frank Gehry has unveiled yet another reworked design for the proposed skyscraper complex in his home city of Toronto, reducing the number of towers from three to two.

Toronto skyscraper complex by Frank Gehry
View from the north

Gehry, 84, came under fire from planning authorities last year after revealing his last proposal for the gallery and university complex, which involved demolishing the existing Princess of Wales Theatre at King Street West and building a trio of 82-86-storey skyscrapers.

Toronto skyscraper complex by Frank Gehry
View from the south

The California-based architect, who grew up in the Canadian city, has now responded by scaling back the proposal, allowing the theatre to remain in place. The towers are taller, with one extended up to 92 storeys, but there will now only be two instead of three.

Toronto skyscraper complex by Frank Gehry
View from the west

"Three towers gave the scheme a sculptural quality," Gehry told the Toronto Star. "With two, it ain't there. But now I think it's more Toronto."

"I wanted to give it a sense of dignity," he continued. "Many towers lack a sense of dignity, not just in Toronto but all over the world. They're just tours de force standing alone. I was looking for a different kind of body language. I was looking for dignity."

Toronto skyscraper complex by Frank Gehry
View from the southwest

The revised complex, commissioned by art collector David Mirvish, also retains two of the four existing warehouses on the site located in the centre of Toronto's entertainment district.

The new towers will be positioned over a pair of six-storey podiums and are designed to recreate the gently undulating forms of the architect's Dancing House in Prague.

Toronto skyscraper complex by Frank Gehry
View from the east

"One sentinel is on the south, one is on the north. In one fell swoop, I found our sense of dignity," Gehry told the Star.

"Fred and Ginger grew up and moved to Toronto," he joked. "In a way, two towers feel better. It's not so crowded."

Toronto skyscraper complex by Frank Gehry

The King Street West complex will also include a large art gallery and a learning centre for OCAD University's art history and curatorial courses. These will be accompanied by shops, restaurants, offices and apartments.

Gehry presented his first proposal for the site in 2012. Despite objections from the city's planning department, the proposed heights remained unchanged when he revised the scheme a year later.

  • Jeroen van Lith
  • Ana C

    Looks like Gehry gave up and they glued some old model’s pieces.

    • Fed Fef

      Looks like you people take pieces from other Frank Gehry’s comments on Dezeen and paste them over and over again. Boring.

  • Too bad Frank’s first concept got taken down. Anyone could give you the two towers you have now allowed, more about conservative form than number.

    Traces remain of course, but it’s not Frank, as you can see by the comparison pictures on his portfolio. Why do you bother Toronto? Do you just want famous peoples names to look “world class” while taking no risk? All that Catia development for nothing. Frank might have dropped his tower idea completely, and done a great mid-rise, but with a more complex form. The Toronto adage – “What sticks up gets hammered down” hold’s true.

    Creative freedom and the technological advancement that comes with it is a great threat to our conservative business establishment. Sorry Frank. You were right to go to Cali, land of Hollywood theme parks and hi-tech.

    • Colin Lacey

      I agree that the revised project isn’t Frank, and it is stripped of its soul. I wish there could have been some way to accommodate the first plan.

      However, the fight between the City and the development proposal had more to do with who was leading the proposal – David Mirvish – than with Frank’s design.

      David’s father Ed Mirvish is essentially a legend in Toronto. Ed built up the theatre scene in the city and actually carved out what is now the theatre district on King Street (same location where David wants to build Frank’s towers). Ed is also responsible for creating what is now called the Mirvish Village near Bloor and Bathurst, a neighbourhood which surrounds the Honest Ed’s discount store (a building considered a Toronto landmark).

      In one move, David put up for sale everything in the Mirvish Village including Honest Ed’s in order pay for a development project in another neighbourhood – a project that would tear down the Princess of Wales Theatre to make room for 3 condos.

      The move was seen as David trying to create a legacy for himself at the expense of his father’s.

      At least some people were hoping a revised plan would allow the Princess of Wales Theatre to be built/rebuilt into the base of the third tower.

      It doesn’t help that Mirvish essentially has a monopoly on the theatre industry in Toronto.

      • Thanks for that insight on the City vs Mirvish. Although we aren’t party to that inside conversation, its residue is plain to see for all, in a good but very compromised design effort by a master.

        I find the way to break free of local logjams is to go for higher ground, like design (Jane Jacobs) for instance, or competition between cities (Richard Florida). No lack of material there for anyone to use.

        Now that we’re number three in North American cities how are we competing for residents with NY and LA? Time to level up! That Mr. Mirvish and the city planners both have stakes in, no matter who’s your daddy.

  • Colonel Pancake

    I doubt Frank really cares anymore about Toronto’s wishes for his buildings. Why waste creative energy when all the city wants is the quietest design possible? He’ll get his fees either way.

  • DJA

    Too bad – the previous scheme was far more compelling. “More Toronto” is an unfortunate brand.

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    Reducing the number of towers but increasing their height doesn’t fix the main problem people have with this proposal: it’s all wrong for that part of King West, and will overload what is essentially a two lane street with hundreds of new cars and thousands of new transit users.

  • spacekat

    More Toronto = More boring.

    • Sebastian

      OOOHH BUUURN! Nice one “spacekat”

  • micanichi

    Gehry is at home in the realm of the tower. The scale is perfect for his drape and crumple-fests and 8 Spruce Street is the best expression of this work. The dignity lies in stability, so when he drapes the skin over the towers the results are beautiful. When he slices and offsets the volumes, the whole thing becomes destabilized. I do like the idea of his notorious fish forming a column as he did in the first model. The eyes would make great oculi.

  • Riccardo Pusceddu

    It’s not just one less tower. It’s less Gehry. Much less, almost unrecognisably his style. A pity for Toronto.

  • Riccardo Pusceddu

    It’s better to leave the site as it is than outstrip Gehry creations of their soul, as has been done with this revision, which is painfully banal.