The 2008 Pug Awards: The people have chosen (the wrong buildings)
Poor Lisa Rochon. Last Saturday, the Globe and Mail’s architecture critic wrote about the Pug Awards—Toronto’s people’s choice awards for architecture—singling out two buildings as “heartbreakingly banal”: the Hazelton Hotel in Yorkville and the Argyle Authentic Lofts in the Ossington-Dundas area. This year, more than 50,000 people cast votes on-line, and apparently they did so just to make her eat her words: the Hazelton and the Argyle emerged as the night’s big winners. The buildings’ profiles are all still on-line (links after the jump), so you can see for yourself that Torontonians have expressed a firm preference for staid, stiff-necked, unembellished, boring conservatism.
The Argyle is pure heritage preservation: it’s the only nominee that looks like it wasn’t built just yesterday—it looks like it was built in 1919. Which is exactly when it was built. But that’s the way we like our buildings in this town: 80 years old. As for the Hazelton, it beat out the ROM’s Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, to the great dismay of the urban intelligentsia in attendance (all of whom seem to share a preference for distinctive, definitely not conservative eyewear). One prominent Toronto architect was aghast. “I can’t believe it,” he told me, dismissing the Hazelton as “Yorkville infill.”
My theory is that architects love the ROM Crystal not for the end result, but for the purity of the process: they all wish they could find a benefactor who’d let them go totally ape-shit with their design, then actually build the ape-shit structure. Yes, the Crystal was the only truly remarkable Pug nominee this year. But the Crystal is also the newest member of an unfortunate brotherhood of Toronto architecture that includes the Robarts Library: buildings that can double in the movies and in television as the headquarters of an evil empire. The people have spoken. Lisa Rochon and friends, like good little pugs, must now chew their Milk Bones and swallow hard.