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David Mirvish proposes 3 new Gehry-designed towers

In the midst of the most crowded condo market in the world, David Mirvish has made a bet that Frank Gehry can make his proposal rise above the rest.

That, and the fact that he is proposing the city's first full-blown condo cultural centre, with a major new art museum and a new campus for the Ontario College of Art and Design.

Early skepticism concentrated on the demolition of the Princess of Wales Theatre, which Mirvish built in 1993 to accommodate a production of Miss Saigon. But at a well-attended press conference at the AGO on October 1, Mirvish did a credible job of laying money-grab fears to rest by reminding the crowd that architecture is also an art.

"I do theatre, I do art, and I'm interested in saying who we are as a people through architecture," he said at a podium set up in front of a wall full of sketches and several early models of the proposed two-podium, three-tower proposal. "Having theatres that are not full all the time is not better than having art galleries." The proposed 60,000-square-foot gallery would house Mirvish's private collection.

In a speech that referred to artists Frank Stella (who was in attendance), Ron Davis and Gaudí, Mirvish told the press that he had spent his life travelling, looking at paintings and architecture, making the proposal sound more like an ambitious art project than a development deal. "I am not building condominiums," he said in what has already become the most quotable quote from the announcement. "I am building three sculptures for people to live in."

Gehry spoke after Mirvish, revealing, among other things, that we might have had several more Gehry buildings in Toronto, the architect's native city, but he had been beat out repeatedly in competitions and calls for proposals by Jack Diamond.

These buildings, he said, would "connect to the John Street cultural corridor, which is a great idea. As a kid, I used to go up and down John Street, and to think of it now as a major cultural corridor is exciting. I hope, I pray, it happens."

The proposal will now begin the approvals process, and if everything goes perfectly smoothly, which it rarely does, the towers, between 80 and 85 storeys each according to the current design, would be ready for residents by 2019.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: David Mirvish & Frank Gehry

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