Architectural Wonders: The Buildings that Reshaped History

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“We shape our buildings,” Winston Churchill famously observed. “Thereafter they shape us.” But just what are the buildings that have influenced the places we live, work and play? After dazzling Curious Minds audiences with a sold-out series on Toronto architecture, longtime Toronto Star architecture critic Christopher Hume returns to assess history’s most influential structures and what they mean to us today. From the century-spanning designs of ancient Egypt and medieval France to the Modernist masterpieces of the 20th century to the spectacular creations of contemporary “starchitects” like Frank Gehry and Santiago Calatrava, this will be a thrilling architectural odyssey, lead by our country’s preeminent writer and thinker on the art form.

Led by Christopher Hume, who was the architecture critic and urban issues columnist for the Toronto Star from the early 1980s until his retirement in 2016. He is the recipient of many of Canada’s country’s top awards in the field, including the National Newspaper Award and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada President’s Award. He remains a freelance columnist for The Star.

The six lectures in this series will all be available to stream as of Thursday, November 26. Once they are online, you can access each lecture at your leisure by clicking on links in your confirmation email, or by visiting your My Shows page.

Lecture 1: Laying the Foundations
We may not think we have much in common with ancient Egypt or medieval France, but both civilizations have had a profound impact on ours. We’ll begin our journey by examining the Great Pyramid of Khufu, the Parthenon, the Pantheon, the Basilica of Saint Denis, and the century-spanning designs of Andrea Palladio.

Lecture 2: Height and Light Make Right
The advance of construction technology enables us to build bigger, better and brighter than ever before. We’ll explore the rich synthesis of form and function in London’s Crystal Palace, Paris’s Eiffel Tower and Bon Marche department store, the Wainwright Building in St. Louis, and Louis Sullivan’s iconic Carson Pirie Scott building in downtown Chicago.
Lecture 3: Out With the Old, In With the New
With the advent of the 20th century, the Modern Movement sweeps across the globe, changing art, architecture and attitudes irrevocably. We’ll watch modernism taking on thrilling new shapes in Vienna’s Steiner House, Walter Gropius’s Fagus Factory, the Barcelona Pavilion and a pair of New York landmarks: the Chrysler Tower and the Empire State Building.

Lecture 4: Everything New is Old Again
Modernism loses its lustre as "Less is More" becomes "Less is a Bore." We’ll assess the stylistic innovations of the Sydney Opera House, the Centre Pompidou, the Venturi House in Philadelphia, the housing developments of Le Corbusier and Frank Gehry’s Bilbao Guggenheim.

Lecture 5: The Age of Spectacle: The Arrival of the 21st Century
In the world of contemporary architecture, anything seems to go, and the results are all over the map, literally and figuratively. We’ll try to pinpoint some common themes and trends by examining the Peckham Library and the Tate Modern in London, the Sendai Mediateque in Japan, the Seattle Public Library, and the High Line in New York.

Lecture 6: Canada Comes in From the Cold
This country’s contribution to world architecture has gone largely unheralded but it is not insignificant. Chris closes our architectural odyssey by examining some of the most compelling designs that have taken shape in Toronto (the New City Hall, CN Tower, Sharp Centre, OCAD University) and other Canadian cities (Habitat ’67 in Montreal, the Manitoba Hydro Building in Winnipeg).

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Course registration: $49 (Hot Docs Members: $33, $27, Free)

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