I have half memories of the first time I wandered into the Allen Lambert Galleria in Toronto. I was with a friend, and we were heading through it on our way to something else. We passed through it in moments, but I knew it was a space I had to revisit. There was something about it.
Or, more accurately, a lot of somethings.
No doubt, these somethings start with the slender columns gracefully shoot up, multiply, and branch out to form the vaulted roof structure, with every surface glazed to create a delicate crystalline envelope, an envelope of wonderful proportions. The resulting space is stirring, with an aliveness to it that nonetheless brought an experience of stillness even as we walked through what was a busy day. The juxtaposition of this delicate structure with the heavy building facades – including a historical building century old – is icing on the cake. It is a great civic space, open to all.
Though Santiago Calatrava has been facing a number of criticisms and controversies of late, his galleria in Toronto shows his skill in blending structure, sculpture, and space. What began as an afterthought to enclose spaces between buildings, through the process of a design competition, was elevated to a spatial masterwork.
And indeed, since that first happenstance visit, I have returned to the space several times, both to meet and greet and eat with friends, and also to just simply visit and experience.