Gehry unveils skyline-defining arts project
Frank Gehry yesterday unveiled conceptual designs that will transform Toronto’s King Street Entertainment District and radically change the city’s skyline. The multi-phase, multi-year project is the largest and most significant urban project for the Toronto-born architect, bringing new cultural, residential and retail spaces to a site adjacent to the Royal Alexandra Theatre, creating a new visual identity for the city’s premiere arts district. It is a special project for Gehry who grew up in the King Street West neighborhood.
The project is the vision of David Mirvish, the founder of Mirvish Productions, who through his family’s support of the arts has helped make Toronto a major international arts destination. The project, which is bordered by many of Toronto’s leading cultural institutions, will have as its center the new Mirvish Collection museum, a 60,000 sq ft gallery dedicated to abstract art and a new facility for OCAD University.
The design creates a new profile of the arts district both at the streetscape and on the skyline. The conceptual design, which will continue to evolve, consists of two six-storey stepped podiums, which relate in scale and articulation to the neighboring buildings, topped by three iconic residential towers, ranging in size from 80 to 85 storeys. The trio of towers works together to form a dynamic still life on the skyline.
The west block of the plan, oriented to King Street West, features a stepped podium with the Mirvish Collection in the atrium and planted terraces that create a green silhouette overlooking King Street and Metro Square. The east block of the plan includes the preservation of the Royal Alexandra Theatre and another stepped podium housing the OCAD University facility that fronts onto King Street West.
The project incorporates a new multi-floor facility for the OCAD University Public Learning Centre for Visual Art, Curatorial Studies and Art History, including exhibition galleries, studios, seminar rooms, and a public lecture hall. The galleries will feature curatorial programming drawn from OCAD University faculty, the OCAD University Art Collection, the OCAD University Archives and the Printmaking and Publications Research and Production Centre.
“Urban universities such as OCAD University contribute to and benefit from their situation within a creative city,” said Dr. Sara Diamond, OCAD University President and Vice-Chancellor. “We are a hub for art, design, media, research, innovation and the business of creativity, and this new facility, in the heart of a transforming cultural district, is a perfect setting for OCAD University.”
As part of the plan, the Princess of Wales Theatre, owned and operated by Mirvish Productions, will be replaced along with adjacent warehouses. The artist Frank Stella, whose commissioned murals are part of the Princess of Wales Theatre, will partner with Frank Gehry to develop new work for the project, integrating art and architecture. “The Princess of Wales Theatre is a wonderful space to experience theatre, but the next step for the future of this neighborhood is providing new kinds of cultural spaces,” said David Mirvish. “We are dedicated to providing more theatre in Toronto, not less, and through our other theatres, we will continue to provide world-class theatre experiences.”