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Tuesdays, May 14 - June 16, 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM

In this new series, former Toronto Star architecture critic Christopher Hume (The Secret Life of Architecture, Architectural Wonders) returns to Curious Minds to offer a spirited survey of the most stunning—and thought-provoking—buildings of the past two decades.

Taking us on a globetrotting journey from the glittering new high-rises of Asia and New York to Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim museum in Bilbao; from epic German concert halls to the projects that global “starchitects” have launched here in Toronto, Hume will assess the power of architecture, the most functional of art forms, to inspire us, to make us think and, above all, to entertain.

This series is led by Christopher Hume, who was the architecture critic and urban issues columnist for the Toronto Star from the early 1980s until his retirement in 2016. He is the recipient of many of Canada’s country’s top awards in the field, including the National Newspaper Award and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada President’s Award.

Promotional Partner: Toronto Society of Architects

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May 14: The Power of the Tower

Contemporary architects are twisting themselves into knots in their efforts to reinvent the skyscraper, a once-exhilarating building form that long ago lost its allure. The Modernist insistence on minimalism has left a dismal legacy of high-rise familiarity. Recently, however, architectural boredom and engineering advances have led to a new generation of towers that are reinvigorating city skylines around the world. More than ever, it’s delight, not height, that makes right.

May 21: Museums on Display

Centuries ago, when a community’s virtue was measured by its religiosity, great cities erected great cathedrals to demonstrate their piety. In our more secular age, we worship at the altar of culture, and, accordingly, we build galleries and museums, not cathedrals, to prove our worth, not to mention our wealth. Since Frank Gehry’s wildly successful Bilbao Guggenheim opened in 1997, cities have raced to outdo one another with ever more extravagant exhibition spaces. Today, the museum experience begins even before you enter the building.

May 28: Architecture on Stage

The relationship between architecture and the performing arts has always been one of extreme intimacy. Today, they are inseparable. Entertainment venues, whether concert halls, opera houses or theatres, have become occasions for spectacle of the highest order. From Hamburg’s extraordinary Elbphilharmonie, home of the German Radio Orchestra, to the revolutionary Sphere in Las Vegas, opened last October by U2—these sites immerse audiences in ways never before imagined.

June 4: The Library Turns a Page

Forget everything you thought you knew about libraries. No longer are they fortresses designed to guard books against everything from noisy kids and distracted teens to water damage and ultra-violet rays. Their very existence threatened by Google, e-books, social media and the like, libraries have transformed into dynamic community hubs that are so compelling, many have become tourist attractions. Books are still part of the mix, of course, but so is some of the most dramatic architecture of the current century.

June 11 (1:00 PM): Infrastructure Comes Out of the Closet

Infrastructure—power stations, incineration plants, sewers and, yes, public toilets—has been kept as far away as possible. Though we can’t live without these services, the less we know about them, the better. Out of sight, out of mind. But in the 21st century infrastructure is coming out into the open where it can be admired, appreciated and even enjoyed. Architects are transforming once banal facilities into innovative multi-purpose projects; one of the most brilliant burns garbage and generates electricity in a structure that doubles as a ski hill.

June 11 (4:00 PM): Toronto Makes a Spectacle of Itself

Despite being known as the city where fun went to die, Toronto is not immune to the mesmerizing power of spectacle. Lest we forget, this is the home—for better or worse—of such landmarks as the CN Tower, the Crystal at the Royal Ontario Museum and an over-sized baseball stadium with a retractable roof. These may not be our most celebrated structures, but Toronto also boasts the whimsical yet controversial Sharp Design Centre, the Ontario College of Art and Design’s “flying tabletop;” downtown’s first pyramid in the University of Toronto’s still unfinished Innovation Centre; Toronto Metropolitan University’s stunning Student Learning Centre; and a wonderful hybrid structure that will house the St. Lawrence Market North Building.

*House of Music, Budapest photo credit: Lessormore (Attribution 4.0 International license)


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