If you’re looking for a place to zen out, City Hall is an unusual choice. The chaos of the Ford administration and the media circus that follows it has made the building anything but serene. So the idea that the epicentre of Toronto’s turmoil would be one man’s Shangri-La sounds….well, mythical. But, indeed, such a man exists.
Meet Dave LeBlanc. Known as “The Architourist,” the 45-year-old Globe and Mail writer has a rather large tattoo devoted to what he calls “the most important building in Toronto … There was no other building I’d even considered putting on my arm.”
Explaining that he is “obsessed” with 1950s architecture, LeBlanc believes City Hall possesses a special symbolism about the city he loves.
“Its [arrival] signified our entry into becoming a very modern city with modern thinking. We were embracing something new and stylish. We were going forward.”
Designed in 1958 and opened in 1965, City Hall was unveiled right around the time Toronto was becoming a “groovy, cosmopolitan city,” LeBlanc explains.
So deep is LeBlanc’s appreciation for the structure that he admits he’s treated it as a meditative space. “I can just go there and stare at City Hall. You don’t have to think about anything when it’s good architecture—you just take it in.”
LeBlanc removes his jacket to show me the tattoo.
“It’s a representation of City Hall as depicted in a Star Trek cartoon from the ’70s”, he explains.
Taking up about five inches in length and four inches in width on his right forearm, the tattoo shows a forced perspective of the ramp used to walk up to the City Hall terrace. The two towers stand proudly in the background, with a flying saucer-like replica of the council chamber in between. Behind it all is an orange burst of energy.
“Only now do I realize that energy burst might have been a bad decision, because everyone wants to know why City Hall is on fire,” Leblanc chuckles.
Before filming the tattoo session for his web series Where Cool Came From, LeBlanc admits he had his reservations.
“I’d been reluctant to get it during the Rob Ford era because of the associations people would make. But I’ve loved this building since I was a little kid, so [I decided] it didn’t matter to me who was in charge.”
He pauses, before concluding: “The politicians change, the building doesn’t.”