Well, globetrotting readers, the votes are in from those who perused the Travel section's special five-part Seven Wonders series and voted on their favourite places to eat, listen to music, see great art, etc.
Overwhelmingly, you chose architecture as the topic you most wanted to discuss with one of the five critics who took part in the series on the Seven Wonders of food, music, art, theatre and architecture.
Earlier, Globe architecture columnist Lisa Rochon was on-line for a discussion on what you thought she got right, and what you thought she missed.
Scroll down to read the questions and answers.
Lisa Rochon is the architecture critic for The Globe and Mail. Her column, Cityspace, appears bi-monthly in the Globe Review section on Thursday or Saturday.
Her book on the significance of modern Canadian architecture - and its deep connection to the Canadian landscape - is titled UP NORTH: Where Canada's Architecture Meets the Land. The book launched in October 2005 with a guest reading at the 2005 International Festival of Authors at Harbourfront and is now in its second hardcover printing.
Since 1998, Lisa has taught as an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design. Her graduate seminar on the reconstruction of devastated cities was launched following 9-11.
She holds an M.A. in Urban Design Studies from the University of Toronto. Before that, Lisa studied international relations at l'Institut d'Etudes Politiques, Paris. Her honours degree in journalism and French was completed at Carleton University, Ottawa.
Winner of the National Newspaper Award for arts/entertainment and culture for 2005, Lisa is regularly invited to speak across Canada about architecture and cities and has recently completed a national tour and lecture series on her book, UP NORTH. She is frequently interviewed on CBC TV and CBC Radio about architecture and city building.
Upcoming publications for 2006: Lisa Rochon is the co-editor and contributing critic for "Picturing Landscape Architecture, Bilder Kanadischer Landschaftsarchitektur" (Callwey; Goethe-Institut 2006), an exhibition catalogue on the work of Vancouver landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander. The exhibition travels in May, 2006 to the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal and various cities in Germany. She is also a contributing essayist and photographer for TRASH (Alphabet City, MIT Press, 2006).
Editor's Note: globeandmail.com editors will read and allow or reject each question/comment. Comments/questions may be edited for length or clarity. HTML is not allowed. We will not publish questions/comments that include personal attacks on participants in these discussions, that make false or unsubstantiated allegations, that purport to quote people or reports where the purported quote or fact cannot be easily verified, or questions/comments that include vulgar language or libellous statements. Preference will be given to readers who submit questions/comments using their full name and home town, rather than a pseudonym.
Allison Dunfield, globeandmail.com, writes:Hi, Lisa, and thank you so much for the thorough article and for agreeing to do this with us today. To begin the discussion of the best in the world in terms of architecture, can you describe for the non-experts among us what you think makes a truly great architectural site? What features should it have?
Lisa Rochon writes:What makes a truly great architectural site? Typically, we imagine the greatest sites to be next to oceans or the Great Lakes or the hilltops of Italy--sites in which we're carried away by the magnificence and force of nature. What's also important to consider is how innovative thinking in architecture can create drama for a site, even when there's very little inherently beautiful about the setting. There are many Canadian architects who are especially skilled at creating interesting sites in urban brownfields, in small towns or in areas in which suburban sprawl is dumbing down the land and our experience of it. Arthur Erickson designed Lethbridge University as a monumental horizontal gesture that bridges the coulees of southern Alberta, so he was matching the power of the land with the power of architecture.
Al Forone from Toronto Canada writes: I have my own preferences for Gothic cathedrals, the Taj Mahal, and Kyoto Golden Pavilion, which I'll spare you, but one question about what it can mean to name a 'wonder of the world' over such broad span of history. Putting historically crucial but worn and sepia-tinted Hagi Sofia in the same hall of fame with the Bilbao museum seems like comparing Babe Ruth's home run record, achieved on the early technology of beer, hot dogs and apartheid culture, with Barry Bonds' advanced conditioning and biochemical tour de force. Do you think there are really Seven (ahistorical) Wonders of the World. (I will say that the Giza pyramid, like the natural wonder Grand Canyon of the Colorado, is a timeless wonder that doesn't need academic training to know when you see it.)
Ms. Rochon writes:Great architecture defines the era in which we live. Your choices are all valid, and each one marks the aspirations of the non-secular society. The Hagia Sofia shares more than you might imagine with the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao - both are tremendous icons set on the water, both exploited the technology of the day, both are designed to stupefy us with their form and decoration - the mosaics in the case of the Hagia and the titanium panels in the case of Frank Gehry's Bilbao. And both provoke a visceral reaction - no academic training required for that.
Andy Man from Winnipeg Canada writes: What do you think about the downtown campus of Red River College in Winnipeg?
Ms. Rochon writes:Having written about Red River in one of my earlier columns and I consider it to be an important reinvention of an existing urban site. Winnipeg has some astonishing, robust architecture--and it was with great regret that the Eatons building was pulled down to be replaced by a hockey arena. Red River exploited the historic fabric, while integrating in a sustainable way new, light-filled architecture. The project has won kudos--both inside and outside of Canada, and it's well-deserved.
Adam P. from Canada writes: I'm surprised the world's more 'classical' religious structures weren't included: Notre Dame in Paris, St. Peter's in Rome, St. Paul's in London etc. Too cliché, perhaps?
Jean Simard from Canada writes: The whole city of Petra should be considered as part of the wonders of the world, having withstood the test of time, being man-made and still accessible by its uniqueness and sheer ever-changing beauty through the day as the sun moves--it is a jewel of humanity.
Ms. Rochon writes:Well chosen, and nicely described. I wish my list might have been longer.
Tom Young from Canada writes: The profession of architecture has largely forgotten the concepts of context and compatibility. Although monumental buildings have their place, not every building can or should be one. What about the city of Bath, England, an example of the creation of a stunning cityscape. No one building stands out, but as an ensemble...superb! Maybe Ms. Rochon could comment on this, and suggest some other places worthy of note?
Ms. Rochon writes:It is a remarkable ensemble, I agree. There are many instances, of course, of beautifully choreographed urban compositions: Place des Vosges in Paris, Mexico City's Zocolo, Piazza San Marcoand, from Canada, ome aspects of the Concord Pacific development in Vancouver in which careful attention to the street experience has been defined.
Janet Wees from Canada writes: One of the most amazing sites of architecture I have seen in my travels is the Church of the Spilled Blood aka Church of the Resurrection in St. Petersburg Russia. This church has the colourful onion domes and intricacies of much of the Orthodox architecture seen in churches in the Eastern European countries, but the initial view of this imposing and overwhelming sight takes your breath away......and then you go inside!!! I likened the inside of the church to a 'giant tattoo'; albeit not as garish, but every space on the walls and ceilings are taken up with pastel-coloured paintings of icons. It is the kind of place where you stand in awe and just slowly rotate to get it all in. There are no pews in the old Orthodox churches, so many people can be looking at once.
People whisper because they feel the spiritual aura inside. And just the thought that this place was used to store potatoes before perestroika boggles the mind. Luckily it was saved from the wrecker's ball afterward! I have photos of the outside and inside of this church but cannot seem to send them in this missive. I will try to send them to the email of the writer of Seven Wonders of the World of Architecture. It is worth a trip to St. Petersburg to see this eighth wonder of the world of architecture!
Ms. Rochon writes:J.Wees: I've never been to St. Petersburg--but it is on my list.
Mike Hall from Canada writes: Couldn't resist offering my Seven Wonders of Canada: places our family has enjoyed, been moved by and return to as often as possible. Sadly, I'm sure my first one will fall victim to global warming: 1. Takkakaw Falls, B.C. 2.Peyto Lake, Alberta Our first visit here was with a one-year-old in a stroller and we hiked down to the lake and back up to the look-out. 3.North Shore of Lake Superior (Ouimet Canyon as well and the Terry Fox monument is a must-stop.) Many wonderful campsites. My son will never forget the side-trip up the Agawa Canyon. 4.Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia 5.Western Brook Pond and a hike up Gros Morne [National Park in Newfoundland and Labrador]6. The Cathedral Forest on Vancouver Island with a side trip to Pacific Rim National Park 7. Cypress Hills, Saskatchewan.When we arrived here for our honeymoon, there was a light rain falling which helped fill the air with the smell of trees, an oasis experience after a hot drive from Saskatoon. The view seemed like it was of half of the province.
Ms. Rochon writes:I was tempted to include a tent in my list of the Seven Wonders, because a tent allows us to move easily into and through landscape.The subtlety and colour variation of the Prairies is mesmerizing ...I'd recommend a trip to the Lady of the Lake Chapel by Clifford Wiens set into the side of the Qu'Appelle Valley. And remote is always good. Take, for instance, the Abbott Hutwhich was constructed of stone in the early 1900s by Swiss mountaineers and is among the highest habitable structures in Canada located about 10,000 feet up--what an incredible feat of construction. I'll be hiking up the Scree mountainside with my family to experience it this summer.
Robin Collins from Ottawa, Canada writes:Okay, I have to admit that I find that pyramid thing in front of the Louvre a real eye-sore. I hate to admit to being provincial; I don't think I am really a traditionalist! But I am not sure if it is because it is intentionally offensive plopped in front of a very traditional architectural form, and therefore that I wouldn't mind the glass in another context or not. My question - has architecture been consumed (has it always been, or only recently) by being intentionally shocking, and has the shock value become dominant over intrinsic values that might otherwise be appreciated. Same goes, maybe, for other art forms, so the question is too big, too general. (Will two generations look back at the Louvre and the pyramid and declare the effort was childish or brilliant?) And yet... that pyramid thing!
Ms. Rochon writes:Robin: I was living in Paris during the mid-1980s when I.M. Pei was fighting hard to have his design for the glass pyramid accepted by the city - the French were none too happy about the audacity of his intervention. Pei argued that he couldn't possibly compete with the architectural style of the Louvre, so he resorted to pure geometry - and the pyramid resonated most for him. I think it works, though one pyramid- rather than a scattering of pyramid tops throughout the court - would have been a more singular response. The glass of the pyramid allowed light to penetrate deeply into the underground, and this is the strength of Pei's solution - it is mesmerizing to be underground but be bathed in natural light.
Yes, architecture is increasingly about the wow factor and cities are competing to attract superstar architects to their turf to help them re-brand their city with wow architecture. Often, it can be brilliant and enduring - such as the work of Jean Nouvel or Norman Foster or Frank Gehry. Sometimes it can be overwrought and highly stylized. City planners and patrons of architecture need to know how to pick architecture that can sustain our interest for a very long time, rather than architecture that satisfies at the pace of a drive-by.
Aaron Costain from Toronto, Canada writes: While I substantially agree with your evaluations, and I appreciate the difficulty of choosing only seven sites, I am curious how certain things were included while others were omitted. Was Gehry's Guggenheim put on the list because it is the one building that got the general public taking about architecture in recent years? There are better and more finely-crafted buildings out there; his detailing and overpowering formalism leave something to be desired. I do not say this because I am against 'signature' buildings with bold gestural moves - Piano's Kanak Cultural Centre in New Caledonia is emblematic of this type, but far more successful on every level than the Guggenheim. And why choose Dhaka's National Assembly over Kahn's more intimate and finely-crafted Kimbell Art Museum (amongst other projects)? Why Barragan's house over the seminal and sublime Barcelona Pavilion? Hagia Sofia over the Taj Mahal? Ankor Wat before Borobudur? I know it's obviously a matter of taste, but I feel that there may be other reasons motivating your choices. Do you consider general importance in terms of architectural history, or is it solely based on experiential qualities of each of the selected buildings? Have you visited all of the sites? If yes, does that preclude other ones from being selected? In short, I am curious about your methodology. I hope I am not giving too much of a negative impression here; I thought your choices were excellent and certainly worthy of a new seven wonders of the world. Thanks for a great article.
Ms. Rochon writes:You've indicated some excellent choices, all powerful works. I was motivated by architecture that connects to a larger social and political context, by the moment when great architecture becomes next to impossible such as Dhaka or has grown more enchanting with the passing of time such as Angkor Wat. Barragan's house is a sublime work but it's set within an ordinary, dense neighbourhood and was accomplished without a lot of money - more to do with carefully edited views and an awareness of the body than the minimalist celebration of extraordinary materials such as the Barcelona Pavilion which now sits as a kind of forgotten relic within an exhibition park.
Greg Whincup from Sooke, B.C. Canada writes: The list is flawed merely by the fact that there is no work from East Asia. Angkor Wat is in a South Asian tradition. I suggest two of many possibilities: from China, the Temple of Heaven in Beijing (ca. 1400 AD), the strong and graceful series of buildings and open-air altars where emperors used to perform ceremonies to preserve the harmony of the universe. And from Japan, the classic pagoda of Horyuji temple, outside Nara. For me, this may be the most beautiful building in the world. Along with the main hall of the same temple, it is one of the oldest surviving buildings made of wood (ca. 700 AD).
Ms. Rochon writes:And it comes from this fascinating and humble understanding of architecture as fragile and impermanent, and something that requires repair, maintenance and even rebuilding on a regular basis.
John Chuckman from Toronto, Canada writes: Frank Gehry is the most overrated architect in the world. His buildings, especially Bilbao. are gleaming, horribly expensive, monstrous sculptures. They are not places for people. The building at Bilbao does not invite life around it. Life just does not happen there. No one cozies up to a pile of bent titanium. Bilbao is empty showmanship rather than clever architecture. When the fascination with a rich endowment's having spent a fortune on this gleaming pile is over, even the tourist shutterbugs will go away (the same endowment commissioned their museum in New York from Frank Lloyd Wright, and it is one of the worst buildings he ever designed). To put Bilbao on the same list as one of LeCorbusiers humanistic masterpieces reflects either extreme nationalism or a serious lack of understanding.
Ms. Rochon writes:No overt patriotism intended - I've been critical of Gehry's redevelopment of the AGO. But, for its liberated form and for the museum's combination of exhilirating open gallery space with the quiet, contemplative terraces, for its honest engagement with the river and the big, massive overpass, Bilbao is masterful. Don't hate the guy because he's famous. You may know that Gehry was greatly inspired by Ronchamp, and typically visits the chapel every year - he owes much to Le Corbusier.
Jim S. from Vancouver, Canada writes: Ms. Rochon, thank you for your attempt at the impossible. Lists like these invariably highlight the omissions as much as anything, but your list is good in my mind....save one. Ghery? You included Ghery? Ghery's Guggenheim is the houte couture of architecture - fun to look at (even this is questionable), but otherwise utterly useless. Another Guggenheim - Frank Lloyd Wright's in New York - could have made your list, though. Yes, it's the original Guggenheim by a great master, but a difficult place to hang a picture on the wall.
Alfonso Rodriguez from Venezuela writes: A question for Ms. Lisa Rochon: Since you offer us a hint, what would you consider the seven wonders of Canadian architecture?
Ms. Rochon writes:Please have a look at my book, Up North, Where Canada's Architecture Meets the Land. I'd include Trent University and Massey College by Ron Thom, Simon Fraser University and Lethbridge University by Arthur Erickson, St. Mary's Church by Douglas Cardinal, Lady of the Lake Chapel by Clifford Wiens and Seabird Island School by the Patkau Architects. There are more to list, and others coming up in the future...
Allison Dunfield writes:That is all the time we have for today's discussion...I think we covered a lot of ground here. Thanks very much, Lisa, for taking so much time with our readers today. And thanks to our web readers for sending in their questions. Tune in for future travel-related discussions.