10 architects who defined the face of Toronto
Toronto might be in the midst of an architectural renaissance, but what about the creative minds who laid the foundation of our built landscape? While some of our earliest architects rarely get the credit they so richly deserve, even those who helped to transform Toronto into a modern city are worth celebrating once again. The very identity of our city is wrapped up in the work of these designers.
Here's a roundup of architects who defined the face of Toronto.
David Roberts, Jr.
David Roberts Sr. and Jr. built the area we now know as the Distillery District at the end of the 19th century. When the Sr. Roberts retired, however, his son vastly extended the family's architectural legacy with the design of the Gooderham (Flatiron) Building at Front and Wellington, as well has two of the Gooderham family mansions (one at St. George and Bloor, the other on Jarvis St.).
E. J. Lennox
Toronto's most prominent architect at the turn of the century, Lennox is responsible for both Old City Hall and Casa Loma, amongst a stable of impressive Romanesque structures scattered across the city. Lennox was also partially behind designs for the King Edward Hotel in the style of the Chicago School.
More people should know Edmund Burke's name in Toronto. After all, he built some of our most marvellous structures, including the Prince Edward Viaduct, McMaster Hall (now the Royal Conservatory of Music), and the stately Simpson's Building at Queen and Yonge, which will soon be home to Saks.
New City Hall in Toronto almost single-handedly put Toronto on the international architecture map in 1965. This is a building that feels as though it's been delivered from the future, but not in some cheesy space-age manner. On the contrary, the concrete beauty has aged very well (though the interior furnishings could use an update) over the years, and still seems as important and novel as ever.
Mies van der Rohe
The modern Toronto skyline was born in 1967 when the first startling black metal tower of the TD Centre rose above a predominantly stone and brick Financial District in Toronto. City Hall had brought truly modern architecture to the city, but it was Mies van der Rohe's TD Centre that confirmed we had arrived. Mies' black towers are still the nicest skyscrapers in this city.
Eb Zeidler is responsible for at least two of Toronto's most iconic developments in the form of the Eaton Centre and Ontario Place. While the latter is in the midst of a complete overhaul, the wonderful 70s-era Cinesphere will be preserved as part of the new park. Zeidler was a force in the '70s and early '80s, also having restored the Queens Quay Terminal and designed the atrium at the Hospital for Sick Children.
Raymond Moriyama doesn't get enough credit for the profound mark he left on Toronto. Yes, the Reference Library is a well-known landmark, but he also designed the North York Centreal Library in a similar style, as well as the Ontario Science Centre, the Bata Shoe Museum, and Seneca's York University Campus.
Some of Peter Dickinson's most important work in Toronto has been erased by the passage of time, but his mark on the city is still an important one. Perhaps best known locally for his work on Regent Park's original towers and what was once known as the O'Keefe Centre, Dickinson also designed the innovative Inn on the Park hotel project amongst a host of buildings across the city.
Uno Prii has to be the most underrated architect on this list, if only because his main subject was the concrete rental towers that sprouted in Toronto back in the 1960s. Prii brought an unmistakable flare to these putatively utilitarian structures with design principles that clearly borrowed a page or two out of the Googie manifestos of the day. You can still see Prii's handiwork all over the Annex.
Sanitago Calatrava may have only designed two structures in Toronto, but the gloriousness of Brookfield Place is enough to land him on this list. Even his little bridge across Mimico Creek in Etobicoke is a thing of subtle beauty. The Allen Lambert Galleria is, however, one of the most architecturally significant places in the city, and a stunning example of contemporary design.
A quick note on criteria: this list aims to pay respect to Toronto's architectural past more than to those architects actively working today, even if some of those listed still keep active practices at present. For a picture of the city's contemporary architects who are defining the face of Toronto, please see this list.
Who did I miss? Add your nominations for architects who shaped Toronto in the comments.
Photos by John Cavacas, Ben Roffelsen, ~EvidencE~, Vik Pahwa, twurdemann, chrisd666, PJMixer, sssteve.o, and a&t photography.
Join the conversation Load comments