Wednesday, February 11, 2009

One Cole

Glenn Gould called himself “the last Puritan”—a claim consistent with his seemingly Gnostic attitude toward the physical world. He took no pleasure in eating, could not tolerate alcohol, avoided physical contact with other people, had minimal regard for his personal appearance, lived in a Spartan apartment outfitted with dull, functional furniture, and had an almost allergic aversion to color. When Gould was a child, his mother took him to see Disney’s Fantasia. The film’s celebrated abundance of bright color made him feel ill, and he had to go home and lie down. In fact Gould’s favorite color was one that most of us consider depressing: battleship grey.

In Toronto the color grey is, shall we say . . . prevalent. Of course this is one of the many reasons that Gould liked Toronto. Personally, I enjoy grey as much as the next guy but, by the time it gets to be February, I’m starting to get just a little tired of it. And so I was surprised this afternoon to be impressed by a new building so perfectly grey that, right on the spot, I was moved to imagine an award for which it could be nominate
d: The Glenn Gould Memorial Award for Outstanding Civic Achievement in Greyness (GGMAFOCAG).

One Cole
, currently under construction, is the first building in Phase One of the renewal project for Regent Park, Toronto’s oldest social housing community. Back in the 1940’s civic planners thought that the best way to design social housing was to create a kind of isolated park in the midst of the city. Reality, however, did not play out according to their theories; while the “isolation” part of the concept came through pretty strongly, the “park” aspect did not. Better integration with the city was needed. Furthermore, the individual buildings of Regent Park had deteriorated to the point where replacing them was more practical than trying to renovate them.

And so Regent Park will soon have new buildings that will be much better designed, much better built and, if One Cole is a reliable leading indicator, much more grey.

Now, given the bad reputation that grey has acquired over time, I hasten to make it clear that I consider the greyness of One Cole to be a positive thing. The building’s worthiness of the GGMAFOCAG is not on account its exc
essive quantity of greyness, but rather on the outstanding quality of its greyness.

Many of Toronto’s buildings date from the 1970’s and are grey merely because the budget was tight, and pre-cast concrete is relatively inexpensive.

One Cole is not like that, however. Since it’s clad in brick it could be any color in which brick is available (which, admittedly is not the most exciting range of colors, but anyway.) The grey brick of One Cole was chosen specifically for its aesthetic properties and it shows. One Cole takes the idea of grey and runs with it. Feel the excitement.

I took the pictures here with my phone, so they’re not the best quality and they don’t really do justice to the building. But I hope you get the idea. This is just the first building of many in a large project. When the new Regent Park is finished, the whole area from Dundas to Gerrard and from Parliament to River will be covered in battleship-grey buildings like One Cole. If Glenn Gould were around today he might even be eager to move in.

1 comment:

  1. I love your blogs!! Thanks for your unique observations.

    Penny (GGF writer/admin)