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The Woodfield

Where, exactly?
1480 Queen St. East at Woodfield
Who owns it?
How many units and residents?
25 units
Architectural and building history?

Colloquially, the Woodfield is known as the deaf building, since apparently a lot of tenants there are, in fact, deaf.

Cream-coloured building has red accents arounod windows, brown-and-tan banded brick at ground level, a sunken entrance with an angled metal grille at the entrance roof, and, at the rear, a light-blue additional wing

Front view

JOE: Well, it’s a postmodern building. Even I can see that. It’s even got a tetrahedron on the roof.

IAN: I thought open-corner entrance was a no-no.

— Why?

— Well, certainly if it’s sunken, right? There’s no sense of welcome. I don’t mind the building, though. You have to go down to get in.

— You do have to go down to get in.

— That’s always a little demeaning.

— I think it’s to do with height limits. They were just barely over for four storeys otherwise.

— They still could have kept the entrance at sidewalk level and then sunken the rest of the building. Is it accessible?

— I don’t think they have an automatic door.

Do they have a ramp?

— Yeah, all that is [points].

— On the other hand, it’s a covered entryway, which is nice. Sheltering. Looks like it has one window that opens per unit.

— And what do you think of the colours?

— Well, there’s no real context but I think they’re jolly. Sort of building-blocks colours – toys.

— I like that they’ve kept the alien blue part on the rear third of the building and they’ve attempted to keep the front part “normal,” though it’s like a deformed girl in a nice dress; she’s still deformed.

Windows are surrounded in red against cream-coloured building, with blue mass projecting leftward at rear

Front left corner

IAN: I would say that the front part with a sunken removed corner and bright-red windows and mullions is not really “normal.” “Normal” would fit into a context.

JOE: Well, they’re deaf, so, what, the architect thought that they were already practising apartheid? What’s a little standing out in the neighbourhood?

— I wouldn’t put it that way. I would say the architect is trying to make the most of a small budget and trying to make a social-housing unit distinctive instead of banal or repetitive or –

— Yeah, but that’s the problem with Toronto social housing – it’s visible from outer space. They always have some kind of weird architecture and weird colored bricks.

— So you’re saying that what the architect is trying to do to distinguish his building is actually drawing attention to the fact that it’s social housing.

— On the other hand, I’ve also looked at it as giving the poor a kind of rich man’s design. Kind of sticking it to rich people, actually, because they’d have to pay good money for postmodernism and this shit is rent-geared-to-income.

— Of course, we don’t completely agree that it’s postmodern.

— Yes, we fucking do. What are you talking about?

— I’ll say whatever I want. If all the social-housing buildings look like this, it’s kind of a fuck-you to the old warehousing of poor people, like Regent Park and St. James Town.

— Regent Park isn’t a warehouse.

— I said “warehousing.”

— What they’re replacing Regent Park with is gonna be a warehouse. Can we talk about the grill sculpture around the entrance there?

— I have no idea what it is.

— What do you mean?

— The post may be structural, but the flying grille is... an indulgence of the architect.

— But it adds postmodernism, doesn’t it?

— No, it adds a grille. The most postmodern thing about this building is the striped brick, strictly speaking.

— Why?

— Because it harkens back to the way buildings were layered, almost as though it’s a rusticated look.

— We’ll get to rusticated later.

— Postmodernism always has a foot in the past. We don’t know how it works inside, but I think it works well from the pictures you’ve taken.

— I remember during the blackout walking past there and seeing deaf people sitting around signing in the candlelight and wondering how they managed to get enough light to do that. Only a whole lot later did I find out this is the official deaf building. They also seem to have a normal intercom system at the front door, which I can’t figure out.

— Where were they hanging out?

— Just outside on the stoop there.

— Under the covered entrance?

— No, way out by the sidewalk. Not on the bench or anything.

— Now, see, if you can report they were hanging out in that sunken entrance, you can say it was acting like a court or a meeting place or something like that, but at least on that particular night it wasn’t. No amphitheatre.

POSTED: 2006.02.06