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Journal: OCAD Expansion

The Tabletop
How the tabletop should look in October 2004.
Ontario College of Art and Design (December 2003): Whether you prefer to think of it as the ugliest building in the world or merely the weirdest building in the world, Will Alsop's new expansion to the Ontario College of Art and Design makes a strong impression. The dramatic part of the project, officially called the Sharp Centre for Design but more commonly called the tabletop, is a nine-storey structure that has forsaken storeys one through seven in favour of large, colourful crayons and empty space. Personally, I find it creative and playful and like it a lot, but I think the architect and I are about the only two people in the world who feel that way. (Update: Liz says she likes it, too.)

The Big Hall
This is roughly the view the security guards had of the main hall that Av and I had to sneak through.
       After doing some initial scouting trips of the bizarre project, Avatar and I were determined to find a way up for a sneak preview — Av doing so in spite of his immense distaste for the building. Usually exploring a construction site is a simple matter of hopping the fence and finding a way in, but since this project began seven storeys in the air it required a less direct approach, through the old building and up into the new. Sneaking past an inattentive guard into the older part of OCAD one night, we began to scour the building for possible routes into the under-construction part of the building, but at first encountered nothing but an endless series of locks and chains. The old building was empty aside from security guards, but we encountered three of these in our first 10 minutes, so we didn't feel too lonely.

Shiny Wall
The tabletop is basically a big portable on stilts... less dreary, though.
       After trying many doors on many levels, we eventually found a complex route into the big, white, empty hall in the middle. Knowing that two of the guards we'd stumbled upon earlier were watching the hall from above, Av and I moved about very slowly, quietly and carefully in search of a route up. After failing to get past a locked door in the stairwell, we decided to take a risk and see if by any chance the elevator was in working order. We hit the button for the elevator and hid — a moment later, an empty construction elevator appeared with a mercifully quiet "ding". We quietly hopped in and pressed the button for the top floor (nine storeys up, but labelled level six because of the missing levels).

The danger sign warned us about everything except construction workers coming into our hiding place.
       We were inside the half-built tabletop now, but we didn't have it to ourselves. Some voices down the corridor sounded like they were coming towards us, so Av and I scurried off into a small, dark room to wait for them to leave. Instead, the voices grew louder and louder until I realized with dread that they were actually coming into the same tiny room that we were in. There was nothing to hide behind, so Avatar and I turned away and pressed ourselves into a dark corner, where we watched the workers fumbling with some supplies through a reflection in the glass. They were only about five feet away from us but, amazingly, they didn't see us. Afterwards one fellow went to work in the hallway immediately outside the room we were in, so Av and I ran out past him when his back was turned and took the elevator from the sixth floor down to the fifth.

View South
The broad, flat, snow-covered rooftop looked very impressive at night.
       We had the fifth floor to ourselves, and took the time to explore and photograph it thoroughly, paying special attention to the incomplete outside walls and the half-finished metal staircase. When we were done, we found another staircase and took it up and out to the roof, where we left a huge mess of footprints in the thick snow while we circled the roof and took pictures of the gorgeous view. Afterwards, we headed down the stairs and played around in the scaffolding jungle on the fourth floor for a bit before heading out. We were surprised to find the door we'd come through to get into the construction area had locked behind us, but fortunately it wasn't too difficult to navigate our way out by a different route. The guard at the front door scarcely glanced at us on our way out.

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