I don't see anything aesthetically incorrect about rounded corners. They may be out of style, but big deal, so is a lotta stuff. Frankly, I find it absurd to call buildings that incorporate a rounded element "cheap trick".
But curvy, rounded buildings are cheap trick eye candy - Yansong Ma's in Mississauga got the nickname "Marilyn Monroe" pretty quickly. I didn't say such buildings are automatically aesthetically inferior. Review our comments on The Met thread and you'll see that talk of the curved balconies and comments that this building is "not a boring box" start right from the beginning.
Like decluttering a home before an open house; wearing vertical stripes to look slimmer; including trees, and groups of happy people with children, and blue skies to condo renderings; using mirrors and light coloured walls to make a small room look bigger, etc. certain visual cheap trick cheap fixes work every time. A rounded building within the context of a city where most buildings aren't rounded has the same immediate appeal.
I don't understand how someone could have an aversion to the rounded corner. It's been proposed and incorporated in highrise architecure for decades-long before the 1980's. Even Frank Loyd Wright introduced curvalinear elements in his designs. Wasn't one of his first glass skyscraper designs in the 1920's a building with rounded corners? I'd like to see some more curvalinear elements in TO condo buildings. The P&G architects did a pretty good job if incorporating some curves yet maintaining the refined appearance that is more easily attainable in the more angular Aa buildings.
Re the Calgary condo, rounded glass corners were the form of a lot of 2nd rate corporate architecture so I guess in that regard it does have the potential to look 'cheap' and dated.
I think the question of whether curves is "gimmicky" depended on how they are used, and whether it is integral to the design vocabulary. The curved "balconies" in the Calgary project doesn't really communicate to me how it relates to the building as a whole - while the rounded corners in SC Johnson is clearly a unifying element.
I could launch into a exposition of the use of curves in Canadian architecture (from the Ontario Legislature to City Hall to the Four Seasons Centre's roof element) but I don't have the energy right now. All I will say is, hearing this discussion to me is the architectural equivalent of overhearing someone in an art gallery opine that they don't really like "green".
The use of curves in a building, any building, requires no special explanation, no special justfication, any more than the use of windows or doors does. That's why I disagree even with Alvin's mild suggestion that curves must be evaluated on the basis of how they relate to the building as a whole. And right angles don't?
Art deco is full of cheap tricks - it was a populist decorative style that was used in comic books, skyscrapers and Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies. What really terrified the common man was the austere, right-angled Modernism-is-good-for-you aesthetic that followed it, and the reaction to that landed us in the dreadful historicist mess that followed, which we're clawing ( I hope ) our way out of. Pointing out the easy mass appeal of curved buildings - those who posted so glowingly on the Met thread are clearly drawn to them like moths to flame, like lemmings to cliffs - isn't an attempt to tar an attraction to them as a moral failing.
Isn't the most common form in the universe the circle- one continuous curve I think the Inuit were on to something. I don't buy the idea that the international style is the purest form of architecture- i always think of those australopithecenes gazing up at Kubricks monolith- the standard by which all else must be measured. The farther an architect strays from simple cubical forms the crappier it is..?
Well, certain proportions are more pleasing to the eye than others, and the Golden Section - derived from proportions found in nature - has been used in art and architecture from the days of Classical Greece to Modernism. You might even say that using it is a "cheap trick" - yet when you look around at how many buildings are unpleasing to the eye it doesn't seem too shabby a thing to do at all.
I agree with Alkay that calling something a cheap trick is not a neutral comment, nor are analogies with lemmings or moths.
A history of decorative styles vs. non-decorative styles has been proposed, in which moths gravitated to Art Deco until the correctness and golden section of modernism came along and restrained everyone to right angles, and in which the moths are in full rebellion as they flock first to historicism and then to curves. This history must be based on some kind of internal dialogue, rather than on an observation of the city around you. Every style, "decorative" or not, incorporates curved buildings and elements, and always has (maybe the only Toronto exception being Neo Georgian). In fact, Art Deco employed curves no more than many other styles did, including modernism. Here's some examples:
1889 - The Queen Anne YMCA employs an eye catching turreted round corner window to mark the meeting of Queen and Dovercourt.
1892 - Romanesque Revival Victoria Colleges is a playful assemblage of curves, all over the place.
1907 - Classical revival - Convocation Hall and right beside, the Sandford Fleming Building with its eastern facing bulge liven the U of T campus.
1910 and 1911 - Classical revival - Riverdale Library highlights its corner site with a rounded entranceway, a gesture mimicked by the Bank of Ottawa building across the street.
1932 - Beaux Arts - Dominion Public Building gently holds to the curve of Front Street.
1957 - Modernism - Dickinson's Ontario Court of Justice subtly curves and embraces Jarvis Street
1960 - Modernism - The S. Walter District Memorial Library presents a pleasingly circular aspect in the middle of the East York Park
1962 - the Expressionist Better Living Centre's huge brick curves lead users naturally to its entrances.
1963 - Bridgepoint Health wraps itself into a semi-circle, providing various views of the Don Valley and Riverdale
1965 - City Hall embraces its politicians with enfolded hands.
1976 - The modernist Ontario Hydro building reflects shards of sun into Queen's Park.
1984 - Late modernism - Diamond's Metro Central YMCA's large circular element unifies the cubes around it
1990 - The very 1980-ish Empire Plaza Condos presents its reddish facade to University.
2002 - The oval matrixes rise from beside SkyDome.
2006 - Rising from its roof element, the Four Seasons Centre incorporates a curved rooftop element, providing a visual counterpoint to its angular darkness below.
My point? An opposition has been proposed that suggests that curved elements arise from "decorative" styles (untrue) and that modernism banished this (untrue), postmodernism brought it back (untrue) and now we are returning to a more angular, less historicist style (untrue). In fact, the truth is much messier than that, and thank goddess that it is. It's only possible to sustain such a view of the city if you filter out data that contradicts what you'd perhaps like to see.
As for me, I'd much rather live in and celebrate the Toronto that we have, with multiple answers to design challenges in every era, and see a huge messy overlapping of styles and influences, than to appeal to golden sections and made-up histories to suit my prejudices. But then, I'm just a moth.