"Because [Frank] Gehry dreams large, new life has been given to Toronto's downtown. The AGO's monumental galleria in Douglas-fir timbers looks more densely planted than a West Coast forest. The central spiral staircase feels more out of control than a careening roller coaster. The titanium panels on the exterior of the gallery's back wall are more blue, more clarifying and more strident than a prairie sky on a winter's day.
The remodelled AGO, whose budget was in the neighbourhood of a quarter-billion dollars, is as much about looking at art as it is about looking out with fresh eyes to the city. From the second-storey Galleria Italia, there are treetops and the mansard rooftops of 19th-century mansions, as well as the scruffy businesses of Chinatown. The city, its flow of immigrants, its varied ambitions, seem to rise up and smack against the glass.
And, yes, despite years of careful planning and design, the project has some flaws. Those ship models are displayed in roller-coaster-like glass cabinets that fight unnecessarily with the tear-shaped cuts in the floor above. The 6,500-square-foot event space, with walls of polka dots cut out from medium-density fibreboard, seems better suited to a child's playroom than to the weddings and corporate events it is meant to attract."