I’ve been spending some time with Torontonians, including an architect and an interior designer, and giving some thought to Toronto specifically and cities in general. As ever, I walk around with a camera, always scouting locations, always taking visual notes.


At the moment, Toronto is growing and building. (The city bird seems to be the construction crane.) Lots of high-rise condos. Lots of green building. Lots of glass and steel. In part because Toronto is self-consciously trying to promote it’s stature in the world, there are some projects by big name architects.

Herewith some visual notes:


Frank Gehry’s exterior of the Art Gallery of Ontario (here with Henry Moore’s scultpure) is impressive, But then there’s the interior.


Daniel Libeskind’s addition to the Royal Ontario Museum gets raves and pans.


The Sharp Centre for Design at the Ontario College of Art and Design, by Will Alsop, Alsop Architects:


Lest you get the idea that it’s all new, there are some fine examples of older architecture:



More photos of Toronto Civic and Commercial architecture, including more details of some of the buildings shown here, with notes, are available on my flickr feed.

I may have a later post on residential architecture.


  1. Sorry, but they are not very appealing photos. In most cases, architectural photography that respects the architecture it portrays ackowledges the true elevational compositions by aliging building verticals (edges of windows or doors, building edges, etc.) parallel with the edges of the frame. This adds dignity and grandeur to the subject. Check out any professional architectural photos and you’ll see what I mean.

    The leaning views of the traditional tower, or the victorian building poking it’s head in at an angle under Alsop’s college building do injustices to them all.

    In cases where it is difficult to correct vertical perspective with the camera (some expensive lenses are designed with architectural photography in mind), PhotoShop software can make post-capture adjustments.

    I don’t mean to be harsh, but as an architect and an amateur photographer I feel it is important to use and exploit the tools intended to represent good design in the most accurate way that emphasises any poetry that exists.

    As for Daniel Libeskind’s ROM? …. Well, there’s really no good way to illustrate this appalling excresence. (That’s a criticism of the hideous architecture, not of the photograph.) There’s no beauty or poetry in that self-indulgent monstrosity so don’t waste time looking for it.


  2. I think you may have leapt to conclusions. As I pointed out in my post, the photos are my visual notes, not photos of architectural projects commissioned by anyone for any purpose. “Dignity and grandeur” were not in my mind when I took the photos. I’m first looking for locations for portraits, and my camera provides an easy way to take notes. The perspective is that of an observer on the ground. I like to see and show people in spaces, I enjoy looking at and thinking about architecture, and my written comments on the buildings I single out reflect my thoughts on them. (I come by my opinions from experience. Some time ago I taught in a university campus designed by Paul Rudolph. It was a fun place to see, some of the spaces worked well, some didn’t, and some of the engineering issues that resulted from the design were near disasters. That experience got me thinking more seriously about architecture in general.)

    In terms of photographic technique, I can correct perspective with tilt-shift lenses (or with a view camera for that matter) as well as the next photographer. I don’t have any with me on this trip, and in any event it would be overkill for my purpose. As far as showing Will Alsop’s Sharp Centre with the corner of the art store intruding, well, we may have to agree to disagree. The building is there, and the Sharp Centre does not stand by itself in an otherwise empty plain.

    I think we basically agree on Libeskind’s addition to the ROM. I don’t think it fits (I’m trying to be polite here). But it would make a terrific background, from a number of perspectives, for a portrait. Mr. Libeskind can reach me if he wants his portrait in that setting.

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