Posted by: Scott McCullough | October 17, 2011

Weekend in Toronto and Buffalo

Jess and I headed way out west this past weekend to visit a friend and spend some time in Buffalo and Toronto, neither city we had been to before.  Our time was short so we squeezed in as much as we could.  As with all of our other trips, we had a few architectural sites that we wanted to check out.  The first of which was the addition to the Royal Ontario Museum by Daniel Libeskind.

Walking around the corner and seeing this was pretty dramatic.

I couldn’t help but think of how complicated the design and construction of this building must have been, though I imagine it would not have been possible without BIM, building information modeling.  Or how about the flashing detail where the new metal panels intersect the existing stonework?

Not the best weather weekend for traveling, from Friday through Monday the sun came out for maybe three times for a total of an hour.  Fortunately the rain that did come down wasn’t heavy enough to keep us from walking where we needed to.  Later in the afternoon we made our way to the subway, or TTC and headed to the south end of the city, where we walked over to the Distillery District.  Basically it’s a recently revitalized group of mill buildings into retail stores and restaurants, http://www.thedistillerydistrict.com/.

We filled up on some gelato from Soma, and a quick dinner before we grabbed a taxi over to the Sound Academy to watch Iron and Wine perform.

The venue was small which was great.  We ended up standing back towards the sound and light technician which didn’t make for the best view, but the sound was full and plenty loud.  Sam Beam was as impressive as I expected as he played through a number of older tunes and new ones from his new album Kiss Each Other Clean.  The last song of the set was the crowd favorite Tree by the River.

The next morning we got ourselves together at the hotel and headed to Buffalo.  One thing we did not anticipate, though we ran into several times was the traffic.  On the way out of town was especially bad when for some reason we hit a detour where an entire stretch of the highway was closed.

We did manage to see Niagara from the Canadian side, but it was a quick stop since we had to get the the Darwin Martin House in Buffalo by 2:00.  The city of Niagara seemed to be a strange mix of Atlantic City and a carnival with other oddities thrown in.  But the falls were amazing to see in person, well worth the stop.

Our tour at the Darwin Martin House Complex started in the Greatbatch Pavilion designed by Toshiko Mori.  I guiltily was looking forward to seeing this about as much as the Martin House itself.  The pavilion is a minimal glass structure that provides a perfect modern complement to the house by Frank Lloyd Wright.

The Darwin Martin House tour did not allow any interior photographs, which is typical but disappointing.  The house has been continually undergoing restoration since the Restoration Corporation acquired the house in 2002, but there were a couple of rooms that were complete, or nearly complete.  A number of original pieces of furniture had been delivered and placed in the house just a few days before, including the Dining Room table, and the full set of furniture in the Receiving Room.  The intricate art glass that was once throughout the house is a work in progress, though there was one fully completed window sash on display in the Receiving Room.

It’s easy to recognize the fact that Wright was a complete control freak with every inch of the grounds being designed including the clothes line posts in the photo above.  It’s nice to see that everything is so well cared for, and that the MHPC has the resources to continue the maintenance and restoration process.

There were many very nice details throughout the house, including the interior globe sconce lights, the starburst fireplace surround as well as others.  The photo above shows the gutter draining into an inverted concrete pyramid catchment basin on the ground.  I loved the basin, but was not a big fan of the 6″ downspout stub at the gutter.

Wright was adamant about connecting the indoors and outdoors.  Though I didn’t always feel that from the interior, I did like the built in planters around the house which helped to transition to the terraces and down onto the surrounding lawns.

I couldn’t go without mentioning the delicious dinner we had in Batavia, New York at Alex’s Place http://alexsribs.com/home/.  The ribs were amazing, along with everything else we had down to the dinner rolls.  Always nice to sit down at a local place, where the prices are fair and the quality beats the hell out of the slew of chain restaurants in the area.

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