Banksy is a troublemaker – and this week the anonymous-but-famous British artist was poking a stick at both New York and ... Canadians. In an opinion piece he published on his website the graffiti artist complained that the new skyscraper at One World Trade Center "declares the glory days of New York are gone." The building he said, is mediocre, "shy," unworthy of New York's bold spirit.
"It's vanilla," he writes. "It looks like something they would build in Canada."
Ouch. Banksy is right about 1 WTC. (That tower, first imagined as a monument in itself, has been watered down into vague, high-security blandness.) But is the attack on Canada fair? It's true that this country favours subtlety in our buildings, and our current crop of high-rises tend toward glassy predictability that lets developers sleep easy. But here's proof that we can go a little wild, too.
An interesting comparison point for Bansky's main target. Both One World Trade Center and this skyscraper in Toronto were originally designed – both in wildly shaped, seriously impractical ways by the Polish-American architect Daniel Libeskind. But while 1 WTC was handed to other architects and watered down, the L Tower is almost done, and its 57-storey form still has a swooping front facade that slopes up to a point at the top. It is far from vanilla. (Though it's also not shaped like an L any more, after a museum that was part of its original plan vanished.)
Beach + Howe
Just approved last week, this tower project in Vancouver twists expectations about what a high-rise building can be. Literally: The tower, which will hold apartments for sale, begins next to a bridge overpass and does a half-twist as it rises up. Designed by the Danish architects Bjarke Ingels Group, it'll be as ambitious as any new building in North America.
Montreal's Saucier + Perrotte Architectes are never dull, and here they've designed four varied and gutsy buildings in Toronto: The first one black and jagged like a Stealth Bomber flying sideways, the next a cluster of three white circuit boards linked by bridges.
Wild as anything going up in New York right now, this 39-storey building in downtown Toronto looks like a stack of white-and-grey boxes stacked half-akimbo, with accents of luscious red. And it is designed by locals, no less, Teeple Architects.
This Toronto project by the world's most famous architect, (Canadian-born!) Frank Gehry, is nothing if not bold. It would include three 80-storey condos, a private art museum and more – all wrapped in a facade that resembles some half-sliced onion skins. It may or may not happen: David Mirvish, the theatre producer and heir to Honest Ed's, has not been able to settle the city's questions about the plan, and he's been arguing that the city is simply too timid to build boldly. It's a self-serving argument, but one Banksy would surely endorse. If the complex is approved this winter, it'll be a 900-foot-tall arrow pointing to a less vanilla future.