regent park demolition

Last tower from old Regent Park being knocked down

It's the end of an era in Regent Park, as demolition crews tear down the last remaining modernist tower designed by Peter Dickinson in the 1950s. A couple of months ago, photographers flocked to the site of the second last of Dickinson's towers on account of the stunning visuals the tear down afforded, which included a colourful interior view of the former apartments once the facade had ben removed.

There has been less photographic interest in 14 Belvins Place than we witnessed at 605 Whiteside Place, but you could make the argument that its demolition is the more signifiant of the two -- and indeed the most noteworthy of the entire five building complex that's in the last stages of being razed. Unlike the other towers, there was a push to preserve 14 Belvins as a heritage site.

Some will think that such plan was preposterous, but there was plenty evidence to suggest that the building deserved consideration for such protection. Not only is Dickinson's architectural legacy significant in Toronto, but the buildings in south Regent Park were important pieces of modernist architecture, despite the complicated history that surrounded them.

Here's how the heritage report lays it out:

"The Dickinson Tower is valued as a rare surviving example of a mid-20th century highrise apartment building designed with a high degree of craftsmanship for the planned community of Regent Park South. It stands as a unique example of Modern design where the grid-like structure, brickwork, fenestration and spandrels create an interlocking geometrical pattern on the facades. The Dickinson Tower is significant as the first example in Toronto of a maisonette tower that introduced two-storey units linked by internal staircases.

The Dickinson Tower in Regent Park South has cultural heritage value for its contributions to the history of urban planning and the development of social housing in the city. As the last remaining vestige of Regent Park South as it was conceived and completed as a planned community adjoining Regent Park North after World War II, it is significant as part of the first experiment in social housing in Toronto on a neighbourhood scale, and remembered for its origins in what was the largest public housing project in Canada at the time."

That ultimately wasn't enough to convince city council, but one can imagine some ideal future in which a restored Dickinsonian Tower stood as a reminder not just of old Regent Park, but as a figure of both our mistakes and aspirations.

DEMOLITION: 4 HOURS OF PROGRESS (Regent Park, Toronto) from Randy and Brenda Hoffmann on Vimeo.

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