About time we talked about ugly buildings
I nearly spewed my cof-fee all over my computer screen in pure glee while reading Gerald Hannon's Eyesores article online (NOW, July 27-August 2). I now understand why I always had uncontrollable bowel movements whenever I entered First Canadian Place during my tenure in Toronto.
But while blunt and abject criticism of Toronto's glass and steel monoliths is undoubtedly an easy task, the issue underlying Hannon's article -- architects' responsibility to public space and their struggles with clients to enact this responsibility -- is a serious one that is in grave need of public debate.
For too long, Toronto has suffered in the drive to develop a "world-class" postcard skyline, and too little thought has been given to the physical environment that Torontonians actually want to live in. Thankfully, the debate being generated around such issues as the U of T's new student residence and playful signage is rekindling public awareness of the built environment.
Perhaps corporate clients and government will now take into greater consideration the fact that buildings are a key component of the urban fabric, and that how people interact with these buildings has a psychological impact on how a city functions.
In the meantime, I'll continue to appreciate the Atrium on Bay, only because it keeps me dry when walking from the Eaton Centre to the bus station. And remember, functionality over ornamentation!
Fort Smith, Northwest Territories
He missed the best of horrendous edifices
Gerald Hannon was off
to a pretty good start with his list of Toronto's ugliest buildings, but he missed the best of the worst.
There is a corridor of ugliness directly behind City Hall extending north to the bus station. I recommend firebombing it, collecting whatever insurance there might be and starting over. (But I would miss my favourite Chinese restaurant.)
The Clarke Institute at College and Spadina is a big, grey slab of a building. What a hopeful and inspiring place to recover one's mental health! Enough said.
The Paramount Theatre only hurts my retinas whenever I look at it directly. Since when is the Rubik's cube a part of cutting-edge design? I have yet to see a decent-looking giganto-plex. Let's face it, they're just recipes for aesthetic disaster.
Even though it's still under construction, the new U of T residence building at Spadina and Harbord deserves extra-special mention. I'm told that the portion that juts out awkwardly over Harbord is in fact not a gallows, but will eventually hold up the words "University of Toronto." Still, every time I go by on the streetcar, I'm surprised there isn't a body hanging there.
In the "good ugly" category, my vote goes to Lord Walter Scott Public School, as viewed from Spadina Circle. It looks like a giant tarantula dressed up as a TTC station. It's always good for a giggle.
Good architecture needs public support
Gerald Hannon identi-fies one of the greatest obstacles to good buildings -- good clients. To paraphrase historian and critic Kenneth Frampton (http://www.arplus.com/frampton.htm), good clients require a general public concerned with and educated about their built environment.
The one problem with the article, and the many others like it, is that you cannot develop an understanding of good buildings by studying bad ones. The article's approach does not raise the bar.
I recommend that you include future articles on architectural design that focus on local, contemporary examples of good buildings, and more importantly, explain why they are good and the contexts in which they were built. A caring populace who know what they like and why may insist on it more often.
Layout of that article an eyesore of its own
Gerald Hannon and his "committee" did a welcome but long-overdue shredding of 10 Toronto horrors. However, your designer did neither him nor your readers any favours -- what an eyesore itself!
Smokers make life hell for Brian Wilson
Re Tim Perlich's review of the Brian Wilson concert (NOW, July 27-August 2): "No one present seemed to mind when he (Wilson) fumbled a line or coughed mid-phrase." I would like to say that I minded, and explain why.
Wilson was obviously distracted by the billowing clouds of second-hand tobacco smoke wafting onto the stage, pushed there by evening lake breezes.
He told the audience they were in a non-smoking venue, but the nicotine addicts continued to abuse Brian, not unlike Brian's hard-hearted father did.
The Ontario Place staff didn't seem to be doing anything to prevent or stop the smoking in this allegedly smoke-free venue. Wilson contracted to play in a non-smoking venue, but what he got was a nose full of soot and chemical pollutants.
What's Blue Rodeo doing at Olympics?
groups have called for a boycott of the Sydney Olympics to protest Australia's history of violence against the indigenous peoples. Why, then, is Blue Rodeo marching off to Oz to play in support of it, and why are you reporting it (NOW, July 20-26) as if what they're doing isn't a kick in the teeth to Aboriginal people, and to a whole bunch of other folks, too?
I hardly expect mainstream performers to take principled stands. But you could at least have asked Cuddy why he's breaking the boycott, instead of writing the inane little puff piece that you did.
It's a drag to see a band write a song like It Could Happen To You -- with lyrics, as I recall, that said something like "brought in the army... to move out the poor" -- and then go out like idiots and cheerlead for an institution and a government that does precisely that. Tell these guys what time it is.
Nicolas Jefferson Lenskyj
That syphilis mystery not such a mystery
The new syphilis blood
test currently under investigation at the Ministry of Health lab is far from a "shocking discovery" (NOW, July 27-August 2).
The new Trep-Chek test is simply a screening test that the lab has discovered appears to be more sensitive in detecting syphilis antibodies than other tests.
What Colman Jones conveniently doesn't report is that antibodies continue to be present at low levels in everyone who has been treated for syphilis, even long after the infection is cured.
Thus, the Trep-Chek test, like all screen and confirmatory tests for syphilis, may continue to test reactive for an indefinite period of time. This explanation will account for most "new" positive tests.
At the same time, antibody levels may also be very low in latent syphilis. Doctors must then review their patients' histories carefully to determine whether the test represents untreated latent syphilis or an old treated case. In this respect, the new test is a definite improvement.
But the actual reason for Jones's report on this test should be clear to anyone reading it. It's merely another attempt to advance the "HIV is not the cause of AIDS" theory that was discredited years ago.
Hassle Free Clinic
COLMAN JONES REPLIES: Not everyone maintains their syphilis antibodies -- evidence shows people with HIV, in particular, can lose syphilis antibodies, independent of other antibodies. As to whether the antibodies detected by Trep-Chek represent mostly old treated infections, other tests suggest these patients may have defective immune responses against syphilis, not just the waning of antibody responses after treatment. Also, of "confirmed" syphilis cases in the study I quoted, 83 per cent were not found in the ministry's database and thus were probably never treated.
Believers genuflect to Honest Ed's moose
Rumours that the Mir-vish -- aka Plastic Madonna -- Moose was shedding real tears spread through Toronto's downtown core like an announcement of a fire sale on cutlery at Honest Ed's.
Throngs of believers, including such notables as Harriet Millstone of one letter-to-NOW renown (NOW, July 27-August 2), gathered around the holy cow, genuflecting and performing ritual sacrifices. Passersby, bewildered by such un-Torontonian displays of passion, put it down to the recent heat wave and to the rotisserie effect of the light bulbs that Mirvish uses to fry the minds of potential shoppers.
Z. David Berlin