Frank Gehry Returns to the Streets of His Canadian Childhood

Frank Gehry, architect of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, new design and started building museums in the late 1990s, he was recently in Toronto, celebrating the start of a new project.

Mr. Gehry, who was born and raised in Toronto, had only one work in Canada. his most honorable reformation of the Art Gallery of Ontario, which opened in 2008 in the community where he grew up.

At 94, he has no interest in retiring, and came to Toronto last month to witness what he hopes will be another Canadian star: two towers that will be his longest career to date. one tower will be 84 stories high; others, 74.

The project, called Forma, will be located near Roy Thomson Hall, the current home of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, on the streets Mr. Gehry used to walk as a child, when the area was filled with railroad tracks and warehouses.

It began as a collaboration between Mr. Gehry and David Mirvish, a theater owner whom Mr. Gehry knew from Mr. Mirvish’s days as an art owner. The original plan, which was unveiled a decade ago, was for three towers with over 80 stories, but was changed after public and political controversy. The final design preserves, rather than demolishes, the Princess of Wales Theater and retains two of the four galleries that would have been demolished in the original plan. Mr. Mirvish also sold the project to a group of developers.

After Mr. Gehry had done many of the preliminary pictures, I met him in the office used by the architects. Our discussion has been edited for length and clarity.

Do you still feel any connection with the roads around here?

I delivered telephone books on King Street when I was a child; I pulled a small cart. My grandfather’s shop was on Fleet Street West. And I used to go from 15 Beverley Street, where my grandmother lived, to the city to the movies and stuff. So this area was part of my childhood.

So I have a feeling about the neighborhood, but not how it turned out.

What was your old neighborhood like?

Much has remained the same, as elsewhere. They build towers and there is not much talk of inheritance or kinship; it’s just Clunk! And it has gone up.

Housing in many cities around the world is poor. I’m not blaming Canada.

Has renovating your childhood home been a daunting task?

Can’t believe, like, that we’re doing this. It has come after a lot of talking, a lot of work, a lot of time. But these things happen over time.

The city administration, the planning department, was always supportive from day one. But he had a lot of comments, he wanted this and that. I gave them a place to stay because they knew the city better than I did.

A lot of work has gone into it. It’s like a painting. So the glass is placed in such a way that it captures the light in a certain way and separates the space from the rest of the building. A lot of care has gone into preparing the visuals. It will show over the years. You will see it and you will say: Oh, that’s what he was doing.

After two jobs in your old country, is there anything else you would like to do there?

I grew up with classical music here at Massey Hall, when Sir Ernest MacMillan he was a conductor. He used to ride his bike through Grange Park and I used to ride through that park to Bloor Collegiate. He stopped one day and started talking to me. I said, “Well, I was at your concert last night,” which shook him.

Unfortunately, Roy Thomson Hall the acoustics are not great. But I really like classical music and I want to help improve it. No one has asked me, but I am ready to do it.

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Born in Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen studied in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported on Canada for the New York Times for two decades. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.

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