For people who don't live in
cities, skyscrapers can be both the symbol of
what is fascinating and
awful about city life. There's something
very powerful about just looking up at a tall building
to see how high it goes. And there's something
very impersonal about all that steel and glass.
In Toronto, there is a cluster of buildings
designed by a famous German architect: Mies van
der Rohe. They stand right at the heart of
downtown. They are black. Many people
do not really think much about them since they
aren't the tallest, or shiniest.
But to walk around and among these buildings
is to discover one of the more beautiful urban
spaces in Toronto.
The entire block was built up to an even level,
a podium. And the buildings are arranged
on this stone podium in a way that leaves great
open spaces between the buildings and the street. And
in these open spaces are beautiful square lawns
with trees and flower beds.
If you lie down on the green lawn and look up
at the blue sky, framed by these noble black buildings,
the city seems to become quiet. You could
be surrounded by people and traffic, but for a
moment, the city becomes quiet.
Great buildings designed by thoughtful people
become art with the power to transform. Mies
van der Rohe transformed the heart of Toronto into
an austere escape that clearly shows what the modern
city has the potential to become.