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Transformation AGO in the Saturday papers

November 8th, 2008

By: Shawn Micallef

Articles in the Saturday Toronto Star and Globe and Mail give readers sneak peaks at what they’ll find inside the AGO when it opens to the public this Friday. In Martin Knelman’s Star article he highlights some of the collection and notes that there will be lots more non-architectural things to talk about. He writes that

almost half of the 2,000 non-Thomson objects on exhibit have never been
seen before at the AGO. And the gallery has created innovative new ways
to install them and describe them for visitors who do not have a PhD in
art history.


Over at the Globe and Mail architecture columnist Lisa Rochon takes us on an in depth tour of the building, letting us know how certain rooms feel, including the Galleria Italia that curves over Dundas Street. If you have a print copy of the paper, it’s worth checking the two page spread of illustrated cutaways that show how the building is put together and some of the radical organizational changes within (there are still some things print media continue to do quite well, as the Globe’s spread proves). Follow the link above to Rochon’s article, and you can watch a video of “the story behind the Thomson Collection” as well.


Rochon does have some criticism of the new building, including the blue tower. Indeed, this feature is likely the most controversial bit of the new AGO. Rochon writes:

Finally, the back elevation of the gallery lords over the park in an
uneasy relationship. There was an attempt to match the floating
irreverence of Will Alsop’s neighbouring Ontario College of Art &
Design by cladding the AGO contemporary-art tower with a wacky, though
jarring, tint of blue titanium panels. But the power of the idea has
been lost by gallery windows that cast a gloom over the back elevation
like a dead TV screen. Still, the five-storey steel tower can be magic
at night – when the colour grows subdued, the glass disappears, and the
shadows of the city climb around the views.

In my post yesterday, I said I quite liked the big blue box and thought it works well with the park, the Grange house and Toronto at large. Over at Spacing Toronto, where I cross-posted the piece, some of our readers disagreed with me, particularly about the relationship to the Grange and the tint of the blue titanium that a few people think will forever look like the “Tyvek vapour barrier” that covers many buildings while under construction. What do you think of it? Is it a little too strange? We all have subjective reactions to buildings, and my positive reaction to the AGO tower is certainly connected to a lifelong affinity for super-modern architecture — yet I wonder if reactions to the tint of this blue or the squareness of the box are similar to reactions to some of Gehry’s other work when first introduced. I’m thinking, in particular, of the Bilbao Guggenhiem with its now famous (and Simpson’s parodied) titanium curves and undulations. Reaction then was, at best, mixed. Today, more than a decade later, it’s an accepted part of the landscape. Still controversial in some quarters, no doubt, but judging by how many other cities want something similar because of the “Bilbao Effect,” the look has some mainstream currency. Is Gehry’s big blue the new big curve? Back when plans for Transformation AGO were revealed some commentators lamented that Toronto wasn’t getting a “real Gehry.” Maybe we did get a real Gehry in the end, and integral to getting what we wanted is a little bit of controversy.

Image by Charles DH Crosbie.

4 Responses to “Transformation AGO in the Saturday papers”

  1. Other image sizes (link below)

  2. Other image sizes (link below)

  3. Nazia says:

    Make of Transformation Ago is very suitable. The author make good art.

  4. Nazia says:

    Make of Transformation Ago is very suitable. The author make good art.

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