In Pursuit of Beauty & Boots – Part 1: “Beauty”

28 April 2014 – And the pursuit brought me happiness, reinforcing my belief that happiness is something like a cat. Do not pursue it directly — instead, pursue something else, something well-chosen, and it will come to you.

Walking is always well-chosen, right? On Saturday, I was walking my way to two other objectives. First target, beauty: go admire two vases by a friend of mine, featured in the “Spring Awakening Vase Sale” at the Gardiner Museum. After that, boots: I’ve walked my way to a larger size (Penny Plod, that’s me), and hope Mountain Equipment Co-op will have something wonderful.

It makes a perfect, 12-km walking loop. Up to the Gardiner at Bloor & Avenue Rd., then down  to MEC at King near Spadina, and home.

Lots of street/alley options along the way, and — who knows? — perhaps I’ll luck into some extra hits of beauty as well. (I really don’t expect to trip over any additional boot possibilities.)

Bell Box Mural, Isabelle & Jarvis

A beautiful sheath for a Bell telephone box, at Isabella & Jarvis. It’s a 2011 addition by D. Walsh to the on-going Bell Box Murals project that each year brings community groups, artists, in-kind donors and dedicated organizer Michael Cavanaugh together to turn more of these boxes into hand-painted, local works of art.

I’ve already stopped to admire some of the Victorian streetscapes in the area, including this terrific example on Earl St. of the 2nd-storey enclosed balcony that is a vernacular touch to a design otherwise quite faithful to its English origins.

Earl St. Victoriana, nr Sherbourne

At first I’m zigzagging at will, my route roughly north-west but its turns dictated as much by traffic lights as by any plan of my own. Once I cross Yonge St., I deliberately choose to make my final east-west approach along Charles St. West. It will bring me out on Queen’s Park Cres. just south of the Gardiner, and enroute take me past…

McKinsey & Company, 110 Charles St. West

What a beauty. This is the Toronto headquarters of McKinsey & Company, completed in 1999, the work of Hariri Pontarini Architects. Three storeys of copper, Algonquin limestone, glass, and teak & mahogany, wrapped U-shaped around a quiet courtyard. Serene, I think, not for the first time; it is so serene. And this, despite the towers now looming to the north, and scampering U of Toronto students all about, for we are intermingled here with the university campus.

The architects’ website describe this project as a “contemporary response” to its much older neighbours.

This one, for example, just a few doors to the west.

Annesley Hall, 95 Queen's Park Cres.

I admit I have to get my eye in, for this one… Reading the plaque helps enormously, because it provides context.

This is Annesley Hall, built in 1903 as Canada’s first university residence for female students. The style is Queen Anne Revival, the intention was to create “a home-like setting through the harmony of its massed composition, bay windows and shaped Flemish gables”… resulting in “the domestic grandeur thought proper for young women students in the early 20th century.”

I round the corner onto Queen’s Park Cres. and head north the short half-block toward Bloor St. West. Next comes the Gardiner Museum, but I deliberately overshoot because it, like the McKinsey building, is in call-&-response with its neighbours. To the south, Annesley Hall. To the north, the U of T’s Lillian Massey Building.

I cross the street for a better look. No Queen Anne style here, this is a neo-classical structure with “1908” and “Department of Household Science” carved above its massive, pillar-ed entranceway.

Lillian Massey Bldg U of T

These days it houses Medieval Studies, Classics, and something called “University Advancement.” (No, I have no idea.) It also houses — along the retail-oriented Bloor St. side — a branch of Club Monaco. Yes! Really!

Finally, and after so much beauty along the way, my target beauty stop of the day: the Gardiner Museum, devoted to ceramic art (including historical collections starting with pre-Colombian Central & South America).

Gardiner Museum, 111 Queen's Park

See? Lillian Massey to the north (L); Annesley Hall to the south (R). In between, today’s Gardiner Museum — this very handsome, 2006 expansion and reimagining by KPMB Architects of the 1983 Keith Wagland original. Just like the McKinsey architects, KPMB talks about responding to their location, about “setting the Gardiner in dialogue” with its neighbours.

Quite like the way a good art exhibition is hung, don’t you think? Pieces chosen and placed, to compare/contrast/complement, in an act of curation that respects the larger context as well as the individual item.

I take that thought with me into the Gardiner. I don’t have time to visit the museum itself — I have boots to buy, remember — so I head straight for the gift shop, with its spring-sale theme of vases. I am given permission to photograph the two by my friend, ceramist (and raku specialist) Gerri Orwin.

fine art vases, Gerri Orwin

Somehow, ceramic art seems especially appropriate for spring. These pieces, like flowers, also rise from the earth.

And then, I go on my way. Thank you, beauty. Time for boots.

Silly me, to think there’s be no more beauty!

Or other adventures. Like…

alley-cat! off Peter St., s. of Queen West

… this pussy-cat. Who you may or may not think beautiful, but must agree is adventurous.

And then there’s Fire Guy. And what I discover as I stare at MEC’s wall of boots. And…

Just wait. All in my next post.



Leave a comment


  1. Some great shots here – what a gorgeous Victorian house you featured. Very dramatic vases and what an elegant turn of phrase you used… ” These pieces, like flowers, also rise from the earth.”

    • I’m glad you like the vases. They were properly honoured at the Gardiner as well: the CEO used one of them for the raffle draw, and then someone came in and bought both.


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    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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