Thursday, 19 March 2015

Caroline vs. "Brutal"

A while back I tweeted about a comic I found, about brutalist architecture in Toronto.  I was initially drawn to it because of the first panel featuring the infamous Robarts Library, where I spent A LOT of time as an undergrad at U of T.  It really does look like a giant concrete turkey (or peacock, depending who you ask).

Robarts has kind of a bad rap on campus because of its imposing architecture and because it is the place miserable students congregate to pull all-nighters. Many students choose to study at smaller college libraries instead (I was partial to Trinity's Graham Library and Vic's E.J. Pratt Library). Looking back now, however, I realize how spoiled I was to have such an immense collection of books (as well as access to the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library) at my fingertips. And while the giant turkey looming over the intersection of St. George and Harbord/Hoskin was certainly the butt of many jokes, it is an important part of the university's - and the city's - architectural history.

Toronto has a rough time holding onto heritage structures and landmarks (most people will know about the demolition of Stollery's, and the upcoming redevelopment of Honest Ed's), and brutalist architecture is on the chopping block as well.  The demolition of mid-century modern and brutalist buildings is a problem across Canada, mostly because they are seen as being not old enough to be historical, but also not modern enough to be relevant.  The comic (by David Oxley and Mark Foo) gives the reader a short history lesson on politics and brutalist architecture, with a topping of suspense.  I loved that the centrepiece of the story was the existence of these brutalist buildings, and the danger they are in as Toronto continues to develop - plus, I'm a sucker for Toronto-centric art.

Find the rest of the comic on Imgur.



PS: Undergrad anthem "Robarts Mansion," and a ranking of all the floors at Robarts.

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