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March 4, 2009

Moisture plagues ‘impermeable’ gallery

The new Frank Gehry-designed Art Gallery of Ontario, designed as an impregnable fortress against the harsh Canadian weather, is already showing chinks in its armour. Recent visitors to the newly reopened and much celebrated Toronto gallery have been shocked to find condensation fogging up and streaming down many of its outer windows, while buckets dot its famed Douglas fir central staircase, catching errant drips. The leaks and condensation problems at the AGO have dredged up memories of a negligence lawsuit that ensnared its architect, Frank Gehry, in late 2007 after another of his designs, at MIT, became cracked, leaky and mouldy. When word of the dispute reached AGO director and CEO Matthew Teitelbaum that November, he said he was confident the newly renovated Gallery would be “impermeable” and ready for the challenging weather of downtown Toronto. Mike Mahoney, the senior project manager for the AGO’s redesign, said the cause of the water penetrating are a half-dozen faulty panes of glass in the sweeping windows of the Galleria Italia and insufficient airflow and heating in the staircases, and that there is no cause for concern. He added these problems are in part the natural “settling” process of all buildings in their first year.

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