Dear Readers, Richmond Avenue runs east/west through Toronto, and en route it seems to change its nature several times. Here, for example, we get a fine view of the CN tower, once the tallest free-standing structure in the world (at 1815 feet) but now relegated to the tallest free-standing structure on land in the Western Hemisphere. So there. And believe me, there is currently a sponsored run which takes place on the internal staircase, and I imagine that would be enough to give pause to even the keenest of runners. At one point there was also the ‘opportunity’ to do a bungee jump from the top, the very thought of which makes my stomach flip.
Further along, we come to this array of black polished stone with what looks like green drinking straws poked through it. It’s called ‘Nova’ and it’s by Canadian sculptor Shayne Dark. The building itself is known as the Tableau Condominium.
And what do I see to the left, but a portrait of Anne Boleyn?
And what is the name of the attached pub? As an A-Level History student (with a speciality in Tudor history) I am somewhat taken aback, for the only Queen Anne that I know ruled from 1665 to 1714 and was played by Olivia Coleman in ‘The Favourite’. Anne Boleyn was never queen in her own right as we know, what with her head getting chopped off etc etc. Maybe this is Canadian wishful thinking.
Anyhow, on we go – we are aiming for the new local history museum, known as Myseum, which is at 401 Richmond Street. And here it is.
They have an exhibition called ‘Ten’, which is about ten Toronto neighbourhoods, but I find it a little disappointing. There’s both too much to take in, and not enough of any one thing to follow a coherent thread. Plus, there is a man pontificating to his friend at the top of his capacious lungs. One thing I have found on this trip is that I am becoming allergic to words for the sake of words. I find myself yearning for a bit of silent contemplation. Still, the etiquette of museums and galleries is very different in different places – I remember being heartily ‘shushed’ in MOMA in New York for discussing a piece too loudly with a friend, and that isn’t a pleasant experience either. Maybe I’ll take myself off on a silent retreat at some point and see if that helps to moderate my rapidly decreasing sociability.
Onwards! Back we go towards our hotel (The Cambridge Suites – we have being staying here for the best part of twenty years but it, too, is earmarked for development into condominiums). We spot a very big ‘ghost sign’, an indication of how the neighbourhood used to be. I think it says ‘Tip Top Tailors’, and indeed there was such a company in Toronto. They had a huge factory on the lakeshore which is now, believe it or not, some more condominiums.
Next, we have the Mandarin Oriental hotel with its strange metal animal wrapped around the glass outside. It’s called ‘Rising’ and the sculptor is Zhuang Huan. Apparently it cost $CAD5m. It is supposed to resemble a dragon with a flock of birds rising from it. To me, it looks more like an unfortunate animal being devoured by sparrows, but maybe that’s just my inner philistine coming through. See what you think.
Then there’s the New Brutalism of the Sheraton hotel…
And then there’s the Victory building, tucked away between a couple of towers. In its day (it was completed in 1937) it was strikingly modern, and I love all the art deco flourishes. It was apparently the first office tower in Canada to be completely air-conditioned. These days, it is leased out for office/co-working space, but at least the building is intact, unlike those who have been stripped and demolished.
So, like so much of Toronto, Richmond Street is a hodge-podge, from ultra-modern tower blocks to 1930s gems. There is so much construction still going on that it’s difficult to find the place charming at the moment – I have never seen so many concrete-mixers in a downtown area, and I live in London. What will be left when it’s done, and how will it all ‘sit’ together? Only time will tell.