Why I Love Toronto + What’s Up Tdot!
The Princess of Wales Theatre
At 11am today David Mirvish along with Frank Gehry announced the plans they are considering for a block of King Street West from John to The Royal Alex. Now the plans would see the Princess of Wales demolished and a new condo complex (with approx. 2,600 units), exhibition and classroom space for OCAD, a gallery for Mr. Mirvish’s private collection, museum and shops go up in the area.
Now many are receiving the proposal with mixed reviews. Those who are opposed to the building are opposed because of the condo plans and the demolition of the theatre. For myself personally I am only a condo hater when it destroys beautiful or old building in our city. You know I love Churches being turned into condos, or buildings like One King West that adds condos on top of an already existing structure and I am way too excited for the MOD developments condo project that will include a full restoration of the old Bank of Commerce on Yonge. However, to tear down the Princess of Wales Theatre all together would be such a loss. Initially I was not sold on these condo plans, because I just have a feeling the condo market is going to crash very soon, but in the news conference David Mirvish said something that really began to change my opinion. He said, “I’m not building condos, but three sculptures for people to live in.” I personally never saw a condo complex in that way and then when he showcased the condo designs they were like sculptures. However, I don’t think its necessary to tear down the Princess. Just like how it wasn’t necessary to tear down those churches , One King West or the Old Bank of Commerce.
Now the design by Mr. Gehry is – interesting. I find parts of it truly amazing and other parts I question. The condominiums look stunning, not going up at a right angle, but sticking out in all different places. The street level area - well it looks really odd with squiggly lines that I would associate with child’s drawing of wind, but I still question whether it can work or not. I love his design of the AGO, it was stunning as was his Dancing House in Prague. However there are buildings I tend to question by him such as The Experience Music Project in Seattle. Now critics of this newly proposed planned have also had mixed reviews about the complex. The Montreal Gazette to me probably had the best headline for this story which read Knock Down a Gorgeous Theatre, Insult a Dead Princess, to Build What? Some people have called the odd wavy white design as toilet paper which has led them to make crap-related jokes.
However my problem is losing the Princess of Wales. I won’t lie, but of all of the properties that the Mirvish’s own in the city and knowing David’s love for the arts, I personally thought Honest Ed’s would be turned into condos by now. However, The Princess of Wales was the reason I fell in love with theatre after seeing a limited engagement revival of The Phantom of the Opera there. I even applied to work there, but instead was suggested to work for the Royal Alex, feeling that my personality would suit the show at the time there better (Rock of Ages).
Now to get into the Why I Love Toronto portion of this post. The glass exterior of the Princess is lovely. It may not have the exterior of the Royal Alex, but mind you it was built almost 2 decades ago. The theatre has 2,000 seats and was a project both Ed and David pursued together. It was the first privately owned and financed theatre built since 1907 in this country. In the press conference today, David Mirvish said he wanted to build the theatre so Toronto could have the production Miss Saigon performed here. In fact it was only supposed to be a temporary theatre which later became a theatre for big productions – like the epic fail that was Lord of The Rings. With one of the widest and deepest stages on this continent, architect Peter Smith did a marvelous job. Even though the theatre is relatively modern, Smith managed to include some traditional theatre elements. Furthermore, Yabu-Pushelberg did the interior.
The demolition of the theatre to Mirvish is said to be a compromise to allow Gehry to have a blank canvas to create this facility, but if there’s one thing I’ve seen in the last few years is that this city is all for saving buildings – however they seem to only be heritage sites.
Regardless though I will never forget my first time at the Princess of Wales theatre. I will never forget going up to the balcony and looking out of the windows at all the people below and I will never forget watching my favorite musical of all time The Phantom of the Opera there.
That Is Why I Love Toronto