Toronto Corus Quay | ?m | 8s | Waterfront Toronto | Diamond Schmitt



From the Star:

Diamond bright, Diamond hard
Building forged by clashing egos
Creator relentless — and `brilliant'
Jun. 13, 2006. 06:10 AM

Here is what Richard Bradshaw, the intractable director of the Canadian Opera Company, thinks of Jack Diamond, the tenacious architect who designed Toronto's new opera house:

"Brilliant. Obsessed. And sometimes unaware that his excitement in what he is trying to convey is seen as a form of arrogance — aggressive arrogance."

In the competitive drawing rooms of Toronto architects there is chatter about the size and vitality of Diamond's ego. No one will say this on the record. But some will generously set aside the time to tell how they would have built the opera house had the contract not gone to Diamond in 1998 after the opera company's second-round call for proposals.

The reason why Bradshaw wanted to deal head-on with the Diamond ego issue is simple:

Diamond's character has a certain largesse. He is an architect, a painter, social activist, a political junkie, and friend of Mayor David Miller. He is, by all accounts, intelligent, egocentric, artistic, relentless, curious, ambitious and, it seems, unsurpassed in his ability to argue a point.

"But in the end," says Bradshaw, "what he has produced is a building of great elegance."

In other words, nobody ever said that alpha males are easy.

Abel (Jack) Diamond grew up in the South African city of Durban, on the Indian Ocean, home of the Zulus, colonized by the British. He was the only Jewish boy in a class of English schoolchildren. That made him different and his classmates taunted him, the moniker of "Christ killer" being the most memorable.

Diamond describes himself as a "very tiny boy" who spent hours playing alone, painting, drawing houses and conducting inner monologues in which he was able to influence people to change their behaviour for the greater good.

"For as long as I can remember, I drew plans and I drew streets. I drew places that I wanted for myself. It gave me a sense of protection, of ordering my world," Diamond says.

"I realize now why Superman and Spider-Man are so important to children. Because they have no power and their attraction to someone with super-duper power who comes to the rescue of the oppressed is hugely appealing.

"I had to invent that for myself. I invented talking to large crowds and moving them in my direction. I had a kind of messianic view about making things better for people. It was from living in a very racist world, where as a child I was conscious of, or maybe it was because of, the prejudice to which I was subjected, I felt a huge empathy, a terrible sympathy for the humiliation among black people and their maltreatment."

As a young man, Diamond became an anti-apartheid activist but ultimately decided he did not want to raise children in a fascist country. "At that point, you either had to become engaged, which meant long jail terms and worse, or leave. And I decided to leave."

After studying architecture at the University of Cape Town, he moved on to Oxford University. He played rugby for both universities and in England was asked to compete against archrival Cambridge University, for which he received Oxford's coveted Blue award. Diamond's face shines with boyish delight when he describes how, at 14, he shot up in height (he's 6-foot-1) and realized that he could compete in team sports "on even terms with anybody."

He played across Europe and when the team travelled he'd pull out a pocket box of watercolour paints to capture ancient buildings, a move that occasionally raised an eyebrow among his rugby mates.

"I remember reading that Churchill was also a very lonely child," Diamond says. "He said, `Being an outsider gives you insight.' So among my rugby-playing friends, my sexuality was suspect because of my watercolours. (He laughs.) Of course, among my architectural friends it was, `Here's a jock who is on the rugby team.' I rather revelled in that — being in, and not in, either camp."

He studied at the University of Pennsylvania, and moved north to teach at the University of Toronto. It was here that Diamond fashioned a career creating buildings that people found warm, welcoming and infinitely workable, like the YMCA and the Regent Park Health Centre. Internationally, he designed Israel's Foreign Ministry, a building that shimmers with gold when natural light filters through translucent onyx walls.

He has built homes, beautiful homes, in Toronto and on the Caribbean island of Mustique. He is currently working on a Shakespearean theatre in Washington, D.C., and a new community that is revitalizing Bulgaria's waterfront.

There's that word.

Waterfront. Toronto waterfront.

It hangs in mid-air and Diamond's face reddens. In a minute, he will wrestle it to the floor and stomp on it with his polished leather loafers, but first he explains why the word has such a painful association for him.

Diamond's firm, Diamond Schmitt Architects, was among the five firms shortlisted by the Toronto Waterfront Redevelopment Corp. to propose a development plan for the East Bayfront waterfront, between Yonge and Parliament Sts.

It was an opportunity for Diamond to create an architectural legacy on the lake, a project that could transform the city. He did not win. The project went to the Boston firm of Koetter Kim.

In 2002, Diamond says, he was approached to create a waterfront design for the Toronto Economic Development Corp. (TEDCO), a city-run agency mandated to find the best economic use of the waterfront lands.

Diamond says he turned down TEDCO's initial request because he wanted to compete in the waterfront agency's call for proposals. He said TEDCO asked him to work as a consultant on its Queen Elizabeth Docklands property if his plan was not chosen.

When Diamond lost, he went to work for TEDCO and the proposal TEDCO put forward was largely the same as the plan the waterfront agency rejected.

Two years later, Mayor David Miller attended one of his first meetings with the waterfront agency's board and demanded it find a solution between its plan and TEDCO's proposal for the land it controls on the waterfront.

Toronto Star columnists pointed out that Miller was nowhere to be found on the waterfront but later came out swinging in favour of Diamond who, they noted, was co-chair of his 2003 election campaign.

And this is why the waterfront, for Diamond, has a peevish unpleasantness.

"The Star screwed me as far as Miller is concerned," Diamond says. "The fact that the mayor actually liked what I did and took my views seriously, he was accused of showing preferential treatment.

"I was humiliated. I was totally clean, totally wronged. The city lost because they didn't adopt what I profoundly believe to be a way better scheme."

Diamond suggested building communities of close-knit residences along the waterfront, with a mix of retail stores and a narrow boardwalk along the lake. As he talks about the winning plan, his voice escalates, the boyish gleam in his eye turns hard, like a star rugby winger reliving the untenable loss of the championship game.

He criticizes the winning proposal for having too much retail space and wide parks that will be merciless when the winter winds blow off the lake.

"You don't do it by creating a big park where people won't make it across in the winter and in the springtime, when the snow banks melt, you find the bodies. Exaggerated. Slightly. But the waterfront is windswept. It's a winter city. We've got to make a winter waterfront as well as a summer waterfront. The open space of the city down there is the lake. Not a park. And in their park they have a water feature. A water feature? The lake is the water feature. I mean, DUH!"

Miller is still miffed.

"Frankly, I've never understood the criticism that there is something that seems improper for me to listen to one of Canada's most premier architects," Miller says. But he believes that parts of Diamond's waterfront vision made it into the new plan, which he says now has a stronger sense of Toronto's neighbourhoods.

Miller is careful to denote his precise relationship with Diamond. "I wouldn't say it was a friendship. ... We are friends, but we don't see each other that often. It was a ... city-building friendship. We talked every few months. On the phone."

Miller is running for re-election this fall. Diamond won't be back as co-chair.

Diamond's energies have been absorbed by the opera house and the ongoing give-and-take with Bradshaw, director of the opera company who describes their partnership as both fabulous and trying.

"Jack and I may lock horns because we are both intransigent," Bradshaw says. "But he understood the music better than anyone I can imagine. It was with such pride that I would go around the opera houses in Europe and hear the way Jack questioned or suggested or dreamed of what they might have done better and (the directors') obvious tremendous respect for his command of the situation."

Among their battles, there is one they are willing to reveal. It involves the paint tones in the theatre. Bradshaw thought Diamond's original Roman ochres and reds on the balconies were too light, making it extremely difficult to light the stage without distractions from the room. The two men clashed.

"At one point," recalls Bradshaw, "we had a fairly sharp exchange of messages about this business. I had written a rather aggressive letter to Jack and he wrote a really charming reply. It finished with the words, `However, I think our relationship should remain colourful.'"

Early in the battle, Diamond insisted they rethink their entire approach to staging opera, so that his colour choice would prevail. It was when Ernie Abugov, stage manager for the National Ballet of Canada, stood up at a meeting and told Diamond of his exact same concerns that the architect's mind began shifting to the possibility that he could accept this loss, and still win.

"I have a tendency to listen to men in jeans, T-shirts, with a batch of keys and a cellphone on their belt," Diamond says. "They know what works."

He mixed the new "mauve mud" tone with his watercolour paints.

"It is really quite perfect."

Project Symphony

From the Post:

Waterfront project shrouded in secrecy
No one will spill the beans on Project Symphony
Published: Thursday, February 08, 2007

Leaving city council chambers yesterday, I awaited the elevator with a gentleman in a crisp blue suit. I introduced myself.

"John Piper," the man said, shaking my hand. "What do you do?"

"I work part-time for the Mayor."

As it turns out, I was at City Hall to try to find out more about something called Project Symphony, Toronto's latest waterfront development, shrouded so far in secrecy. I took my chance with the Mayor's man: "Do you know anything about Project Symphony?"

"Those questions are best put to TEDCO," he replied, referring to the Toronto Economic Development Corp., the city agency that owns huge swathes of the waterfront. Then he closed his mouth and just smiled for the rest of the ride.

Good answer! Clearly Mr. Piper (who I now know, is the Mayor's waterfront advisor) and his part-time boss, Mayor David Miller, do know something about Project Symphony but they are not talking.

So what is this so-called Project Symphony? I first heard of it on Monday, while reporting on TEDCO's decision to kick its long-time tenant, Cinespace Studios, out of Marine Terminal 28 at 175 Queens Quay E., just east of Tate & Lyle (previously known as Redpath Sugar).

Jeff Steiner, chief executive of TEDCO, told me Cinespace has to go so he can demolish the terminal to make way for Project Symphony: an office building,

set for completion in 2009, that will welcome 800 to 1,000 employees to the spot.

Mr. Steiner says he has a deal with a company that will be the tenant but will not give more details.

"We don't just need housing on the waterfront," he said. "We need jobs."

I called John Campbell, who heads up the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation. He, too, knows about Project Symphony, but won't talk.

I called the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, but they say they're happy at Roy Thomson Hall.

I called Metronome Canada, which has a project for a "Music City" at the foot of Bathurst Street, but they don't know about Project Symphony.

Back at the newsroom here in Don Mills, I went to see David Asper, the chairman of the National Post. Two years ago, Can- West Global Communications Corp., my employer, came close to a deal with the city for a building on the waterfront but walked away. [That was code-named "Project 24/7"]. Mr. Asper said CanWest has no new deal for the waterfront.)

Earlier yesterday at City Hall, Don Wanagas, the former Post columnist who is now the Mayor's communications director, gave a tour of the city press gallery to his journalism students from Humber College.

"This is Peter Kuitenbrouwer," he told them. "He gets his hair done by his pillow."

(Ever since Mr. Miller's election team ran those "Great Hair" ads, they've been obsessed with hair, I guess.)

"Hey Don," I asked him. "Do you know about Project Symphony?" He nodded. "So what is it?"

"Well, we can't really talk about it. We're still in negotiations. We're not ready to announce anything. I'll try to get some more for you."

On the second floor of City Hall on Tuesday, two bureaucrats were having a chat.

"Are you going to the Project Symphony meeting?" one asked.

Clearly, many people know about Project Symphony, except the people of Toronto.

I checked my voicemail; a gentleman had left a message saying, "I'm calling on an anonymous basis. I read your story. Jeff Steiner does not have a deal at 175 Queens Quay E. There is no Project Symphony."

It's funny the way TEDCO does business. When seeking to attract a film studio to the port lands, they put out a public request for proposal, and chose a winner. But for this project, they go through shadowy negotiations, then will, presumably, announce the winner as a fait accompli.

Clearly, TEDCO enjoys its privacy; the agency recently won a judgment at Superior Court to block Showline Studios' Access to Information request for the terms of its lease with Toronto Film Studios on the port lands.

Mr. Miller campaigned for mayor on a pledge to "shut the back door to City Hall." Well, we have made progress: These days the people on secret business walk in and out of the front door -- and don't tell me anything.

Re: Post: Waterfront Project Shrouded in Secrecy (Global?)

Perhaps CTV Globemedia is looking to consolidate their offices along the waterfront?
Re: Post: Waterfront Project Shrouded in Secrecy (Global?)

New Big Box store?
Re: Post: Waterfront Project Shrouded in Secrecy (Global?)

^I'm going to start a new Walmart rumour.
Re: Post: Waterfront Project Shrouded in Secrecy (Global?)

Hmmm. 800 to 1,000 people. I can't see CTVglobemedia moving from Agincourt - too much up there to even consider it. The Star is already down there. But maybe Global/National Post/ and now we can add Alliance Atlantis?

I don't trust TEDCO for a minute. Half of me thinks a big orange Home Depot and a Best Buy will end up there.
Re: Post: Waterfront Project Shrouded in Secrecy (Global?)

I'd like to see Apple Canada relocate from it's Markham location. This would be a great spot for them.

As for the height, as long as they leave a wide pedestrian ROW at the water's edge, I don't care how tall it is. Although I would prefer a stylish low rise.
Re: Post: Waterfront Project Shrouded in Secrecy (Global?)

re: Big Box

If so, it should be called Cacophony Project instead.


I believe a point tower was considered for the site at one point during the planning process by TWRC; even now, there are a whole bunch of special urban design requirements attached to the site.

Re: Post: Waterfront Project Shrouded in Secrecy (Global?)

Also this is also subject to the new urban design panel so hopefully it won't be something we'll regret.
Re: Post: Waterfront Project Shrouded in Secrecy (Global?)

The East Bayfront - West Precinct Urban Design Guidelines will be presented at a public open house on Tuesday, February 20, 2007 at Metro Hall, 55 John Street – Room 313. The Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation in partnership with the City of Toronto invites you to join us any time between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. to review the guidelines and provide us with your feedback.

The East Bayfront – West Precinct is situated on Toronto’s Central Waterfront between Jarvis and Parliament Streets. The new East Bayfront community will be a vibrant and sustainable downtown neighbourhood and a destination for city residents and visitors.

The design guidelines are the next step in the implementation of the East Bayfront Precinct Plan and Zoning By-Law. A copy of the Draft Urban Design Guidelines is available for review and comment at . Comments on the document should be submitted to Andrea Kelemen at by February 26, 2007.

The final East Bayfront - West Precinct Urban Design Guidelines are targeted for presentation to Toronto & East York Community Council on March 27, 2007 and to City Council on April 23, 2007. Final confirmation of these dates will be provided once the agenda for these meetings has been released.

If you have any questions, please visit our website at or contact Andrea Kelemen at 416-214-1344 ext. 248.
Re: Post: Waterfront Project Shrouded in Secrecy (Global?)

One of those reports that Enviro posted said that Project Symphony would be proceeding with the exact same terms as Project 24/7 (Global). That would suggest that they are similar in nature. We can assume that it will be an office project, perhaps media. Since the negotiations seemed to be happening at the same time as the Global discussions, we can also assume that this is somebody different from Global.

I'm just guessing here, but does anybody know a big company that uses a symphony or music in its advertising?
Re: Post: Waterfront Project Shrouded in Secrecy (Global?)

Re: Post: Waterfront Project Shrouded in Secrecy (Global?)

I’m surprised that these staff reports with the code words “24/7 and Symphony†have been circulating since July and nobody caught on until now? While we know 24/7 failed, this “Symphony†project is certainly an office development and if it sticks with the district’s employment objectives, it will be from the ICT sector (Information, Communications, Technology). So Sympatico would be a good guess.

It appears that TEDCO had a September 30, 2006 deadline to meet and requested an extension until March 2007, which staff recommended the city deny.

From reading the report, the TWRC is now the lead in developing the block (which, I personally prefer over TEDCO). I’m actually quite impressed by the language of proposal, there is this bold ambitions talk of turning Toronto into a tier-one global city. Now we are talking, we just need to get moving!

However, I’m disappointed with the proposed name “Queen’s Elizabeth Docks?†Why must we name everything after the Queen? If this is going to be a truly unique destination, can’t we call it something unique to Toronto? East Bayfront doesn’t sound sexy enough either.

Looking at the budget, a new LRT line is being funded and built before 2011 and $16 million will be spent to build a 700 stall public underground parking garage to make the area more attractive for investors.

I also like the strategy $7 million strategy to subside new cultural groups/programs relocating to the area. There is a real concentrated effort to make this an animated and attractive district.

Sherbourne Park and the water’s edge promenade are “supposedly†to be under construction in 2008, I personally won’t believe it until I see the shovels in the ground.

I’m optimistic about the whole plan yet skeptical at the same time.

Re: Post: Waterfront Project Shrouded in Secrecy (Global?)

Why must we name everything after the Queen? If this is going to be a truly unique destination, can’t we call it something unique to Toronto?

Because hardly anything in the city is named after the person who is in her 56th year as the country's head of state?