AlexBozikovic

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Heather Mallick over at The Star has a column out on Manulife Ctr. and its various renos over the years up to and including this latest one.

While briefly, but heftily praising Eataly, she conveys her total distaste for the complex and its latest reno.

She also takes issue with our own @AlexBozikovic of the Globe and Mail suggesting his critique is the wrong one, from her perspective.

"Architecture critic Alex Bozikovic is furious because the “serious importance” of the brutalist beauty of the cement tower has been compromised. I am furious because the cement tower was hideous from the start and the dog’s mess at the base has failed to distract from that. "

Article is here:

OK Boomer
 

Northern Light

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OK Boomer

I like Alex, and agree with Alex a lot more than I do Heather.

That said; If you were to ask millennials at large if they were any more enthusiastic about brutalism than boomers, I strongly suspect the answer would be 'no'.

That isn't an architectural argument; it is a statement that while Ms. Mallick is a boomer; perhaps this meme has run its course.

***

One thing everyone can agree on, the addition to manulife doesn't respect it; nor does it stand well in isolation.

We can disagree over the virtues of the original building without disagreeing that the current product is a hot mess.
 

DavidCapizzano

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I get both sides of the argument. Brutalism is like craft beer or wine. You can tell someone about its merits and how great the notes are until the cows come home but at the end of the day it’s just not going to appeal to everyone.

I think expecting an academic level of respect and appreciation for brutalism from the general public is a little silly. Canadians are very illiterate when it comes to design (who can blame them when our society and education system shows little value towards arts and design) , so expecting folks to embrace the manulife centre just doesn’t feel realistic.
 

adma

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I get both sides of the argument. Brutalism is like craft beer or wine. You can tell someone about its merits and how great the notes are until the cows come home but at the end of the day it’s just not going to appeal to everyone.

I think expecting an academic level of respect and appreciation for brutalism from the general public is a little silly. Canadians are very illiterate when it comes to design (who can blame them when our society and education system shows little value towards arts and design) , so expecting folks to embrace the manulife centre just doesn’t feel realistic.

Actually, I'd reckon that going into this, the *real* silent majority isn't worked up about Manulife pro *or* con. But it's not like they'd be averse to taking Bozikovic's word for its merit (and desecration thereof)--the real test is whether they'd opt for Bozikovic or Mallick, or just be agnostic.

And frankly, said "illiteracy" isn't unique to Canada--think of Boston City Hall, think of the demolition of Robin Hood Gardens in London, etc etc.
 

androiduk

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mand2519.jpg
 

cogito ergo

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ok, do you remember the streetscape before this reno?!
was it better? hardly! It was a mess with crumbled steps and ramps & pedestrian flow obstructions for no reason, etc..
fin. materials were extremely poor as well.. now, as with Bloor Street rejuvenation lead by aA before, this particular stretch got its matching redesign with decent extensions along Bay and Balmuto to match.. so, whether you like it or not, it is functionally better.
I would also argue that MdeAS have done a decent job to satisfy three factors here(driven by Manulife- client): fit within available budget, maximize rent-able space, improve accessibility.
You can argue forever for respect of brutalist origins of the structure, the truth of the matter is that if it was not protected by any public entity (City in this case) its preservation purely depends on the owner. The owner decided to approve the works.
Time will tell if they were right...
 

Wrenkin

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This is a purely subjective observation, but it seems the arrival of Eataly has greatly increased traffic in the rest of the complex. It would be expected considering how important anchor stores are in shopping malls, but Eataly is not well integrated - if you live there, you have to go through their brewery on the concourse level or what is essentially a fire door off of their coffee shop on the ground floor.

You can take the north elevators (the one by the Men's washroom) to reach the checkout area on the 2nd floor.
 

ADRM

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ok, do you remember the streetscape before this reno?!
was it better? hardly! It was a mess with crumbled steps and ramps & pedestrian flow obstructions for no reason, etc..
fin. materials were extremely poor as well.. now, as with Bloor Street rejuvenation lead by aA before, this particular stretch got its matching redesign with decent extensions along Bay and Balmuto to match.. so, whether you like it or not, it is functionally better.
I would also argue that MdeAS have done a decent job to satisfy three factors here(driven by Manulife- client): fit within available budget, maximize rent-able space, improve accessibility.
You can argue forever for respect of brutalist origins of the structure, the truth of the matter is that if it was not protected by any public entity (City in this case) its preservation purely depends on the owner. The owner decided to approve the works.
Time will tell if they were right...

The “hey, it’s better than it was before” argument is always a red herring, and I think it’s particularly misplaced when it’s said about a renovation or addition to a brutalist building.

In the regular course, anyone in any discipline with half an imagination should be able to spot weaknesses in a current product and propose improvements thereupon. Of course brand new is going to be better kept and less shoddy than old and decrepit — because it’s brand new! But that’s really an argument for maintenance, repair, and upkeep, not for an imploring to be thankful that the general state of repair has been improved upon.

Now, in this case, I think the dynamic is even more pronounced because when a significant change is being made to a brutalist building, the urbanistic weaknesses of buildings from the era are so well documented. As someone who adores brutalist architecture, I nonetheless fully accept (and indeed bemoan) the fact that many (though not all) brutalist buildings are hostile and unwelcoming at grade and are generally oriented inward to a fault. Precisely because we recognize this reality, it gives us an obvious opportunity to bring contemporary architecture and urban design principles to bear in the renovation; there are plenty examples of contemporary additions to brutalist buildings that do exactly this (and it’s not necessarily true that better in that sense means more expensive). Instead, here, we basically have all of the worst design moves of brutalism but with contemporary materiality — the result is a nasty combination of no improvement in urbanity with a bastardization of the original architectural intent. If you’re going to do the latter, at least fix the former.

Repeating the sins of the past shouldn’t be welcomed as progress, it should be decried as a shameful missed opportunity.
 

pw20

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Most of Toronto's "grand" mixed use complexes built at major intersections have been frankensteined to death over the years. The Yonge Eglinton Centre never worked as well as Manulife (the plaza was a true dead zone) but successive renovations (the Silver City PoMo addition of the 90's and the 2010's "Cube") didn't respect the original design ethos of the building and destroyed whatever unity there was to the complex. Same thing for Manulife and same thing for the Eaton Centre (if we're being honest). These complexes were designed with a certain cohesive ethos that have been completely disrespected, if not wiped out over the years, as their landlords have looked to update them.
 

adma

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Though there are cases where respect's been paid--the Toronto Hilton lobby renos at University & Richmond, and even Manulife's own Bay Bloor Radio...
 

cogito ergo

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The “hey, it’s better than it was before” argument is always a red herring, and I think it’s particularly misplaced when it’s said about a renovation or addition to a brutalist building.

In the regular course, anyone in any discipline with half an imagination should be able to spot weaknesses in a current product and propose improvements thereupon. Of course brand new is going to be better kept and less shoddy than old and decrepit — because it’s brand new! But that’s really an argument for maintenance, repair, and upkeep, not for an imploring to be thankful that the general state of repair has been improved upon.

Now, in this case, I think the dynamic is even more pronounced because when a significant change is being made to a brutalist building, the urbanistic weaknesses of buildings from the era are so well documented. As someone who adores brutalist architecture, I nonetheless fully accept (and indeed bemoan) the fact that many (though not all) brutalist buildings are hostile and unwelcoming at grade and are generally oriented inward to a fault. Precisely because we recognize this reality, it gives us an obvious opportunity to bring contemporary architecture and urban design principles to bear in the renovation; there are plenty examples of contemporary additions to brutalist buildings that do exactly this (and it’s not necessarily true that better in that sense means more expensive). Instead, here, we basically have all of the worst design moves of brutalism but with contemporary materiality — the result is a nasty combination of no improvement in urbanity with a bastardization of the original architectural intent. If you’re going to do the latter, at least fix the former.

Repeating the sins of the past shouldn’t be welcomed as progress, it should be decried as a shameful missed opportunity.
ok, I can get the "bastardization" argument here (to the brutalist enthusiast it must seem as such - granted), but "no improvement to urbanity"?!.. that is just not being realistic, in my view..
Before utter rejection, let's see what we get here.. all retail accessible directly from the sidewalk (vs various steps and ramps to get to any door) is a major improvement in functional urbanity in my books... again, we might understand "urbanity" as two different things here..
nevertheless, as much as it is easy to point out a lack of depth in appreciating, or in respect of the past - it is also extremely easy to point out a lack of understanding of current design realities..
it goes both ways..
 

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