1. ACO Launches Questions for MPP Candidates Catherine Nasmith
Architectural Conservancy Ontario has released a set of questions for provincial election candidates. They cover five topics: financial incentives for heritage, conserving our school heritage, heritage as an environmental priority for public sector buildings, energy efficiency incentives for heritage windows, and relieving property tax issues for heritage buildings.
Ways to use these to raise awareness of heritage issues in Ontario.
Print them and keep them handy to raise when a candidate phones or knocks.
Take them with you to all candidates meetings and raise these questions with all candidates.
Email them to your local candidates election offices, if you get a response please let ACO's COO Will Coukell know at firstname.lastname@example.org, ACO will be posting responses on our website.
Here's the link to download or forward these questions.
2. ACO Toronto Schools at Risk Symposium - On You Tube Catherine Nasmith
Rust chewing through the steel at Lord Lansdowne Public School, Peter Pennington Architect
City Adult Learning Centre, April 7, Peter Pennington Architect
For almost ten years, Architectural Conservancy Ontario has been expressing concern about the way the provincial school funding formula puts school buildings at risk, leading to premature demolition of buildings which have cultural significance no matter how you measure it. Some are great architecture, all represent public investment in our most important civic objective, public education, and all have played an ongoing role in the life of their respective communities.
The Davisville Junior Public School is on the National Trust for Canada's Top Ten Endangered List, chosen for its merits and representative of school buildings across the country that are being neglected by penny-wise pound-foolish governments.
On April 7, Toronto School Buildings at Risk: A symposium in 3 Parts organized by ACO Toronto examined both the cultural value of school buildings and the political and government forces that are putting some of our most significant public buildings at risk. Held at the City Adult Learning Centre at 1 Danforth, a building designed by the brilliant Toronto District School Board (TDSB) team of Peter Pennington and F.C. Etherington, the wonderful design and the decay that has set in were evident; paint was hanging from the ceiling in sheets, linoleum worn through and dirt build-up in all the corners.
The day opened with remarks from Councillor Josh Matlow lamenting the conflict between cultural value and government funding approaches that led to the failure to conserve Davisville Junior Public School. Steve Shaw from the Toronto District School Board and Krista Wylie from Fix Our Schools set out the maintenance challenges for the school board in the face of inadequate and unpredictable provincial financial support.
Since the Harris government amalgamated all the school boards and eliminated their direct taxation powers, the Toronto District School Board is no longer directly responsible for raising its monies, and has to make choices described by Krista Wylie as between "bad or worse". Over the past 15 years the maintenance backlog in Toronto has grown to nearly 6B, with 1/4 of the schools slipping to critical condition. Vik Pahwa's slide show captured both the glory of our school buildings and the perilous state many are in. Local provincial candidates Peter Tabuns (NDP) and Li Koo (Liberal) debated their approaches going into the election. (The conservative candidate declined the invitation to participate.)
By lunch the causes of the problems were clearly set out. In the afternoon the focus was on the architecture, with Alex Bozikovic, Globe and Mail architecture columnist speaking of the buildings from 1900-1940. Robert Moffat focussed on mid-century modern, with particular attention to the work of TDSB architects F.C. Etherington and Peter Pennington. Mary MacDonald spoke of her experiences as head of Heritage Preservation Services at the City of Toronto and her thoughts on school buildings. Jessie Gammara covered the typology of mid-century schools in Don Mills.
Finally, the topic of what to do with redundant school buildings was examined by three speakers. Carol Kleinfeldt, who along with Kim Storey led the Mod Squad fight to save Davisville Junior Public School, showed the alternative site plans they had developed. Marco Polo from Ryerson University described his students' projects, some very fresh ideas for the Davisville Junior Public School building. Alex Speigel, a property developer, shared his work repurposing school buildings for condominium purposes; the George Brown Campus in Kensington Market and the Loretto in the Annex area.
Over the past year, ACO Toronto has embarked on a project to document all of the City's school buildings. Over 500 TDSB buildings were photographed in the summer of 2017 and posted to TOBuilt, the rest will be done in 2018. A researcher, Loryssa Quattrociocchi, is putting together as much information as is available on architects, dates, critical information which ACO Toronto hopes could lead to a batch listing of all school buildings. Such a listing would force a conversation between the School Boards and the City regarding conservation of this important building stock before irreversible decisons are made.
As master of ceremonies for the day, I had a ringside seat on several exceptional presentations and papers. The symposium was promoted to Ontario Association of Architects members as part of the Continuing Education program. It is possible that the material may be published, but in the meantime you can see the videos on You Tube. If you are looking for facts and figures as to why the school buildings in your neighbourhood are in trouble pay close attention to Steve Shaw and Krista Wylie.
3. The Ward Cabaret - Performances June 20-22 John Lorinc
Performance at Lula Lounge, 2017
For well over a century, St. John’s Ward, a.k.a., “The Ward,” was a working-class enclave in downtown Toronto, situated between Yonge and University, Queen and College. From the 1840s to the 1950s, this community became synonymous with immigration, poverty, vice and squalor. It saw waves of newcomers – African-Americans, Irish, Italians, Eastern European Jews and finally Chinese – settle in dense and often run-down neighbourhoods that city officials saw as slums.
Yet as the award-winning 2015 Coach House anthology co-edited by Michael McClelland, Ellen Scheinberg, Tatum Taylor and I showed, The Ward was much more than its poverty. The streets teemed with entrepreneurial energy, activism and culture. Moreover, the community’s sounds – everything from Italian street musicians to Chinese opera and Jewish cantoral songs -- evoked the homelands of the groups that settled in the area.
The Ward Cabaret was conceived by the Juno Award-winning musician David Buchbinder, a unique show that combines the musical traditions of the groups that lived in the Ward’s crowded streets – African American, Italian, Jewish and Chinese.
Led by Buchbinder, Michael Occhipinti and Andrew Craig, The Ward Cabaret is a 90-minute collection of songs about emigration, love, struggle and traditions lost or renewed. Playwright Marjorie Chan, artistic director at Cahoots Theatre, has added vignettes based on the lives of Ward residents – stories that express the hardships and determination of Toronto’s earliest immigrants. The show’s director is Leah Cherniak, a resident artist and associate director at Soulpepper.
Earlier versions were performed in 2016 and 2017 to sold-out houses at Soulpepper/Young Centre for the Performing Arts and Lula Lounge (check out a short video about that show here). Later this spring, the next iteration, which for the first time includes Chan’s script and actors, will be performed over three nights at the Berkeley Street Theatre, from June 20 to 22. Tickets for the shows are available through Luminato, and can be purchased here.
The Ward Cabaret, produced by the book’s co-editors, is a joint venture between Luminato and Diasporic Genius, a Tides Canada project founded by David Buchbinder. The show depends on both Luminato contributions and ticket sales, as well as donations to Diasporic Genius. We have had great support, including a generous gift from the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario/Toronto and others in the heritage community. But we still have a $10,000 gap to close. All contributions over $25 receive a charitable receipt. If you would like to donate, please visit this site and click on the option directing funds to The Ward Cabaret.
I am incredibly excited about this show and the way it evokes one of Toronto’s most important but least understood neighbourhoods. On behalf of my co-producers and the artistic team, thank you for supporting our project. – John Lorinc
4. University of Alberta-Indigenous Canada-Free Online Course Paul Gareau, Tracy Bear
A free online course you can take, if you want it for academic credit then there are some charges. Apparently over 60,000 Canadians are already signed up. It is very affordable and the sylabus looks great. I would encourage all BHN subscribers to enroll.
As subscribers will be aware, over the past several years, as editor of BHN I have been trying to fill in the many gaps in my knowlege of Canadian history, particularly in relation to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission findings. This course offers an organized base for further reading. To sign up, go to https://www.coursera.org/learn/indigenous-canada. Starts May 14, 2018.
About this course: Indigenous Canada is a 12-lesson Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that explores Indigenous histories and contemporary issues in Canada. From an Indigenous perspective, this course explores key issues facing Indigenous peoples today from a historical and critical perspective highlighting national and local Indigenous-settler relations. Topics for the 12 lessons include the fur trade and other exchange relationships, land claims and environmental impacts, legal systems and rights, political conflicts and alliances, Indigenous political activism, and contemporary Indigenous life, art and its expressions.
Faculty of Native Studies & Dept. of Women's and Gender Studies
Editor’s Note: I've signed on for this, perhaps all BHN subscribers may be interested.A
5. Willowbank Announces Scholarship Program Press Release
May 7, 2018 . . . Canada’s School of Restoration Arts at Willowbank is pleased to announce first-ever entrance scholarships for incoming students.
Newly established scholarships, sustained by a generous three-year funding commitment from the Dalglish Family Foundation, will support talented first year students who would otherwise be unable to attend Willowbank.
Willowbank is an internationally renowned, charitable institution located on a National Historic Site in the Village of Queenston in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. Entering its twelve year, it is pioneering an ecological approach to heritage conservation and renewal. Through a unique three-year Diploma in Heritage Conservation, it is developing an innovative way of thinking about the past to create a more sustainable future.
Willowbank's approach to learning embraces interdisciplinary problem-solving and an integrated study of people, practices and place. Its progressive and unconventional educational model provides academic theory and hands-on training in traditional building techniques.
Students are taught by a faculty drawn from leading professionals in the fields of conservation, design and sustainability, that include master tradespeople, designers, planners, academics and artisans. Graduates are forming a growing international network of new professionals--individuals trained in the contemporary practice of heritage, and uniquely equipped to address questions of development and conservation in the 21st century.
Beginning with the Fall 2018 program, candidates with demonstrated financial challenges now can apply for a scholarship covering up to 50% of their first-year tuition.
The Dalglishes have previously supported Willowbank through Prince’s Charities Canada by giving Willowbank students an opportunity to attend the Prince’s Foundation Summer School. The Dalglish Family commitment is a testament to their confidence in Willowbank.
Applications for the Fall 2018 program are currently being accepted. Places are limited. To schedule a campus tour or to apply, please visit www.willowbank.ca.
Willowbank is pleased to announce it will be visiting the United Kingdom from May 20-23, 2018. The highlight is an invitation to Buckingham Palace for a reception celebrating the work of organizations under the Patronage of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, a leader in the sustainable regeneration of historic places. The visit coincides with the fourth anniversary of The Prince’s Patronage of Willowbank.
At Buckingham Palace on May 22, Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall will be joined by Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle.
Editor’s Note: What a lovely pat on the back for the great work at Willowbank!
7. Globe and Mail: Obituary Stephen A Otto John Lorinc and Alex Bozikovic
Historical conservationist Stephen Otto mounted a victorious defence of Fort York
In September, 1994, Toronto council was poised to approve a massive development proposal that would put thousands of apartments onto a tract of industrial land snaking along the north side of Lake Shore Boulevard from Bathurst Street to Strachan Ave. That real estate, in the shadow of the Gardiner Expressway, had long been home to a brewery and a dusty concrete plant, and tucked in behind was Fort York.
The application surfaced at a pivotal moment, when council was approving plans for the redevelopment of the railway lands.
With the Lake Shore plans barrelling forward, an upstart group called Friends of Fort York (FoFY) surfaced with sharp criticisms. “What is proposed,” said the group’s co-founder, heritage conservation expert Stephen A. Otto, “is on a scale that overpowers the fort and is inappropriate for the site.” A wall of condos would block access to Fort York, he added.
But Mr. Otto and Friends weren’t NIMBYs; quite the opposite, in fact. They were aiming to give Fort York breathing space so the garrison could become physically and socially integrated into the city that existed because of it.
In the spring of 1995, the city and the builders returned with a scaled-down plan that called for the development of Fort York Boulevard and public space along the fort’s southern ramparts, as well as a series of north-south view corridors and parks linking the fort precinct to Lake Shore Boulevard.
“What we like,” Mr. Otto said to a reporter about the revised design, “is that it gives the fort the accessibility, the visibility and the dignity we think is appropriate. It’s a national historic site. It should be treated in more than a passing way.”
It’s safe to say that not even the British Army defended Fort York with the determination that Mr. Otto brought to the task. “Steve always believed that Fort York was the birthplace of Toronto,” says Don Cranston, FoFY’s chair. “He felt that knowing the area provides a rootedness for all residents [of Toronto], not just the direct descendants of the original settlers.”
8. Raise the Hammer: Steve Otto writes on Frederick James Rastrick Stephen A Otto, Feb 26, 2007, forwarded by Rob Hamilton
Frederick James Rastrick and the Changing Face of Hamilton in the 1850s
Frederick Rastrick designed some of the most iconic buildings of mid-19th century Hamilton.
Fig. 1: Portrait of Rastrick as an older man [TPL, The Canadian Album: Men of Canada (1891)]
Frederick Rastrick was born in August, 1819, in the Staffordshire town of West Bromwich, the third son of John Urpeth Rastrick and his wife, Sarah Jervis.  By the time of his birth his father had already achieved wide recognition as a skilled pattern-maker, iron founder and civil engineer.
His reputation had been built at the Bridgnorth Foundry, where he turned drawings by pioneers of steam technology like Richard Trevithick into engines, mainly for Cornish mines and West Indian sugar plantations. On occasion he was called upon also to supply cast-iron work for projects like bridges.
Fig. 2: Engraving of "Agenoria" (slide)
About the time of Frederick's birth, John Rastrick assumed new responsibilities as the managing partner at Foster, Rastrick & Co., a Stourbridge ironworks where more than 450 men made all kinds of machinery, engines, retorts, boilers, rails and the like.
During his time there, the firm was famous for developing and manufacturing some legendary railway locomotives, such as the Agenoria, now the oldest surviving locomotive in the world , and the Stourbridge Lion, built for the Delaware & Hudson Railway and the first locomotive to operate in the United States.
Fig. 3: Rastrick family home on Eaton Square, London [author's photo]
Rastrick was so eminent that he was invited by the directors of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway to set the conditions and then judge the famous Rainham Trials of 1829 where Robert Stephenson's Rocket demonstrated clearly the advantages of his locomotive design. Also, he was asked to advise parliamentary committees dealing with technical matters and to design some of the many railway lines and structures built in Britain during its first railway boom.
Frederick's upbringing was obviously one of privilege, but few of its details are known. Like other sons of the well-to-do, he went away to boarding school, perhaps somewhere in Yorkshire. In 1837, when the family moved to London, he began working in his father's office where as a draftsman and office boy he picked up a smattering of engineering knowledge.
Fig. 4: Plate showing St. Jacques, Liege, [Weale's Quarterly Papers on Architecture, v. II]
His eldest brother, seven years his senior, worked in the office too and had the inside track on succeeding their father. Both lived at home in the Rastricks' large house at 46 Eaton Square. 
In any event, Frederick soon realized he wanted to be an architect rather than an engineer. Accordingly, in January, 1838, through the influence of his father, he was articled to Charles Barry, arguably London's most prestigious architect at that time.
Fig. 5: Plate showing St. Jacques, Liege, [Weale's Quarterly Papers on Architecture, v. II]
Barry's career had begun about 1810 in the office of some surveyors in Lambeth. When travel to the continent resumed again following the Napoleonic Wars, he toured for four years through France, Italy, Greece, Turkey and the Mediterranean islands, studying Classical architecture but particularly the Renaissance buildings of Rome and Florence that later would be models for his important designs for the Travellers' and Reform Clubs.
Although he preferred the Italian style to the Gothic and Elizabethan, his skill in working in the latter modes served him well when, in 1836, he won the competition for the New Houses of Parliament at Westminster. Barry may have come to see his success as a mixed blessing.
The Westminster commission made him famous, and allowed him to gather together a team of talented draftsmen and students to help with the work. They included his two sons, Charles and Edward Middleton Barry, and people like A. W. N. Pugin, George Somers Clark and John Gibson, all of whom Frederick Rastrick came to know.
But the job also dominated his office for twenty years, limiting the number of other commissions he could handle. Among Barry's more notable projects during Rastrick's time were the Reform Club, laying out Trafalgar Square, Dulwich Grammar School, and Highclere Castle, Hampshire.
Editor’s Note: We are all missing Steve this week, and will for a long time into the future. Rob sent this wonderful article which I missed in 2007. Its a nice example of all he brought to us over the years, and a standard to strive for in future.
9. Toronto Star: 2010 on Stephen Otto Christopher Hume
Stephen Otto: A tireless advocate for better cities
Remember the Toronto that worked? Meet one of its makers, Stephen Otto, with some of his useful reflections.
Stephen Otto in his light-filled apartment, March 17, 2010. (MICHAEL STUPARYK / TORONTO STAR)
As one of Steve Otto's many admirers put it, he is the very opposite of a loose cannon. Quiet, effective but self-effacing to a fault, he is one of those quintessential Quiet Canadians who make a difference.
In Otto's case, that means heritage, history and preservation. Though these are topics about which we profess to care deeply, reality tells us otherwise; the past is under constant pressure from the forces of growth. In cities like Toronto, the losses have been heavy. And although the destruction wrought by the excesses of 1950s and '60s urban renewal has diminished, nothing can ever be taken for granted.
The heritage movement does what it can on painfully limited means; a myriad of organizations have sprung up to defend everything from old train stations and schoolhouses to streetscapes and entire neighbourhoods. But Otto's special effectiveness comes from the informal but influential network he has assembled over the course of the last four decades. It stretches well beyond the usual confines of a single-issue community to encompass a wide-ranging cast of characters.
And as Otto will tell you, preserving heritage, refurbishing and re-using it, only makes sense. It's not a question of being charitable, but of building and growing intelligently. In other words, history is a resource, not a hindrance.
"Steve knows how things work," says the Ontario Architectural Conservancy's Rollo Myers, a long-time friend and fellow fighter in the preservation trenches. "He's done a great deal, most of which people aren't necessarily aware of."
More than anything, that would mean Fort York, on whose behalf Otto has struggled for years. One of his legendary accomplishments was to reclaim large chunks of real estate around the fort from landlords as intractable as the railways.
He's also co-founder of the Friends of Fort York, a volunteer body whose dedication knows no bounds.
Otto's grandest gesture – certainly his most public – came late last year when he announced a $250,000 donation to the fort. Keep in mind that this gift didn't come from a man of vast wealth. Otto, who lives comfortably but modestly in his Rosedale apartment, travels by TTC and likes to walk.
Perhaps that also helps him keep in touch with the city where he was born and raised and to which he has dedicated his life. What better way to stay current, especially for someone who talks knowledgeably not just about the obvious landmarks but individual buildings, specific houses, events?
One of the great joys and privileges of living and working in this city has been meeting and learning from people whove long tried to make it a better place. Stephen Otto was one of those people. A historian and civic activist, he passed away on April 22 at age 78, but his impact on Toronto and Ontario will be long felt.
Over the years, Stephen became a friend and he shared his enormous knowledge about this city and province. He also knew how to negotiate politics and personas, and when to be loud and when to quietly work in the background. Though a historic preservationist, he also knew the city was not a museum and thought it could grow while still respecting its history.
Stephen Otto, shown at his home in 2010, was a preservationist knew the city of Toronto was not a museum and thought it could grow while still respecting its history.. (MICHAEL STUPARYK / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO)
To say his knowledge of this place was enormous would be an understatement. During even a casual conversation with Stephen, in person or during one of his many phone calls, he would mention enough names and events to make my head spin. History is so immeasurable theres just so much of it that it can be difficult to know and understand anything more than isolated snippets, but Stephen was somebody who could see the entire arc of it, at least in Ontario.
One summer day about 10 years ago, Stephen picked me up in his ancient Volvo sedan. A tank of a car, he famously purchased it without air conditioning, driving it until late last year when the cancer he fought off the last decade returned for a third and final time. We were heading up to Alliston for a historic plaque unveiling at the Stevenson Farms where Theodore Loblaw was raised before founding his chain of grocery stores.
It was an excuse for a day trip outside the city, and a chance for him to say hello to Lincoln Alexander, the former lieutenant-governor and an old acquaintance from his years in the public service, who was presiding over the ceremonies. Stephen seemed to know everybody, but he never made a big deal about that.
Instead of driving straight to Alliston, Stephen chartered a meandering route northwest from downtown Toronto roughly following the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) route out of town. We stopped in Weston to get a glimpse of the GTR bridge crossing the Humber River valley and further out we stopped in Georgetown to see the bridge crossing the Credit River valley. Both are beauties and date to the 1850s but are still put to great use, carrying UP Express and GO trains everyday. Useful and historic at the same time, Stephen wanted me to appreciate that they were there and to see a bit more of that arc.
11. Toronto Star: Say Goodbye to Terra Cotta House, 20 Jerome Street Vjosa Isai
Historic 113-year-old terracotta-tiled home in west end to be demolished
A terracotta-tiled home nestled on Jerome St. in the west end has stood 113 years. But the decades are catching up to it.
In what city staff are calling a rare situation, the heritage-registered property is slated be demolished.
The building is not structurally sound. If you sneeze too hard, its going to fall down, said Councillor Gord Perks (Ward 14 Parkkdale-High Park).
Neighbours at Dundas St. W. and Dupont St. have been vocal about their desire to see the home preserved, after the new owners began construction at the site last month.
The neighbours will have until next week to raise any concerns about the owners plans to level the home such as requesting proper dust suppression on site, but their input will not affect the demolition order itself.
It has to come down because it is not safe, said Perks. However, the tiles are the historical feature that the city is keen to figure out how to preserve, he added.
12. Toronto Star: Queen and Yonge Reveal Michael Lewis
Woolworths building to get a makeover
Cadillac Fairview plans to restore 2 Queen St. W. to its original 1885 brick façade and add three more storeys.
The planned 2 Queen St.W. renovations will add three more storeys to the building, including a top floor designed to accommodate a restaurant with an outdoor terrace.
Cadillac Fairview has unveiled plans for a makeover of 2 Queen St. W., a project that will restore the former Woolworth building’s original 1885 brick façade and open a “gateway” from Yonge St. to the south entrance of the Eaton Centre.
The Toronto-based commercial property developer said the expansion and restoration project aims to enhance retail and office space — and will add three more storeys to the building, including a top floor designed to accommodate a restaurant with an outdoor terrace. It said the project will improve the quality and utility of the property “while preserving its unique architectural features.”
Overall, the redevelopment comprises 23,150 square feet of office space and 22,011 square feet of retail and storage space, along with mechanical, structural and electrical upgrades. The value of the project was not disclosed.
The façade of the building on the northwest corner of Yonge and Queen Sts. had been obscured for more than 50 years, with the exterior covered in white aluminum after several renovations. Since 1895, the site had been occupied by the old Jamieson Clothiers store but was best known as the building Woolworth’s anchored for 65 years.
“But after the five-and-dime moved out in 1980, the worn-out structure became a succession of no-name retail outlets and seemed headed for oblivion. It was one of the shabbiest downtown addresses,” Star columnist Chris Hume wrote in 1987.
“The outside was in equally bad shape. The bricks suffered serious damage in the ’40s as a result of being sandblasted. To make matters worse, all the cornices and protuberances were cut off when aluminum siding was added.”
In 1985, the building was bought by Guarantee Realty Trust and Karas Corp. which decided to develop it. The co-owners hired the Toronto architectural firm of Alter & Ireland to renovate.
13. Toronto Star: Death of Will Alsop, 70 Christopher Hume
Will Alsop, 70: British architect
Will Alsop, the bad boy of British architecture, had a special relationship with Toronto.
Will Alsop’s Pioneer Village station brings some enjoyment to the banalities of the daily commute, writes Christopher Hume. (STEVE RUSSELL / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO)
Will Alsop’s “flying tabletop” raised eyebrows around the world, and also raised Toronto’s international profile, writes Christopher Hume. (VINCE TALOTTA / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO)
Will Alsop wanted his architecture to be fun, writes Christopher Hume. (TANNIS TOOHEY / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO)
Will Alsop’s Pioneer Village station brings some enjoyment to the banalities of the daily commute, writes Christopher Hume. (STEVE RUSSELL / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO)
Will Alsop’s “flying tabletop” raised eyebrows around the world, and also raised Toronto’s international profile, writes Christopher Hume. (VINCE TALOTTA / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO)
Will Alsop, the irreverent English architect who brought a serious sense of playfulness to his work, has died.
Though known as the bad boy of British architecture, the 70-year-old architect/artist/teacher had a special relationship with Toronto where his most celebrated contribution was the Sharp Centre for Design at the Ontario College of Art and Design. Better known as the “flying tabletop,” the unique structure, a black-and-white pixelated box held aloft by a series of crayon-like columns, raised eyebrows around the world. It also raised Toronto’s international profile and managed to make a cold city seem cool.
Alsop first came to global attention for the Peckham Library, which opened in London in 2000. Not only did the aggressively whimsical building increase membership threefold, it earned him the U.K.’s most prestigious architectural award, the Stirling Prize. With that in hand, he set out to remake architecture and the planet as a series of a brightly coloured blobs with bean-shaped windows and as often as not, legs.
But as avant-garde and startling as his architecture may be, he also wanted it to be fun. Whether designing libraries, schools, apartment buildings or ferry terminals, Alsop never failed to bring a smile to the viewer’s face. Though often dismissed as lacking seriousness, especially by other architects, he took the view that all aspects of life should be informed by the pleasure principle. If people aren’t engaged by a building, they tend to ignore or avoid it when possible.
For him, every project was an excuse for play. The Sharp Centre was one of the best examples of Alsop’s conviction that work should be play. Along with Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Glasgow School of Art, his OCAD addition is the most remarkable and original such institution anywhere. Not only does it inspire students to boldly go where no one has gone, it gives them permission to have fun in the process.
At the same time, Alsop’s building changed this city. That isn’t something that can be said of many structures. As Mirko Zardini, director of the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal, said of the Sharp Centre at an exhibition he curated in 2008, “If a building doesn’t add anything to a city, it doesn’t matter. Architects here in Montreal are obsessed with the objects. Alsop goes beyond these limits.”
As Zardini also pointed out, Alsop “doesn’t need a lot of money to do something. OCAD is a good example; you can do brilliant things with not much money ... I thought it was important to pay homage to Alsop and his building.”
Architectural firm IBI Group proposed the development of a 44-storey condo building, rendered above, to be built on top of the award-winning former Bank of Canada building at 250 University Ave.
CALIN CALIMAN/IBI GROUP
Imagine a building designed by an award-winning local architect. More than half a century old, it’s solidly built and beautifully detailed, wrapped in granite accented with brass. Now imagine sticking a 44-storey stack of condos – clumsily designed, awkwardly detailed – on top of that.
A terrible idea, right? Yet this is exactly what’s at stake with a new development application for 250 University Avenue, a building constructed for the Bank of Canada in 1958. The former bank building, prominent on University Avenue, might have escaped your attention. Yet it’s an important example of the way Canada slowly and cautiously went modern, the sort of building that we need to save until we learn to cherish it.
That means rejecting this proposal, which offers a poor design and no meaningful public benefit. That means leaving 250 University alone.
Designed by the firm Marani & Morris, it is in a style that professionals call Modern Classicism. Its facades echo the composition of Classical buildings, with a base, middle and top, but strip away a lot of the details you’d expect to find in those more traditional structures.
It shows the hand of its lead architect, Robert Schofield Morris. He won the international Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1958 – a very rare honour – but he was no Modern radical. A World War I veteran, he was trained in the 1920s in the Beaux-Arts tradition. He spent 30 years as a partner at the same staid firm, Marani & Morris.
When modernism came to Canada in the 1940s, architects of Mr. Morris’s generation welcomed its new ideas cautiously. As architects to banks and insurance companies, Marani & Morris kept up with the times prudently. Looking at Mr. Morris’s work, you can see buildings of the 1920s evolve gradually into those of the 1940s, as a few flourishes fall away, but the proportions and details – the stone panels that embrace a window, the subtle syncopation of brick courses – remain masterful.
Take the University Avenue building, seven storeys of stony elegance capped by a temple-like penthouse. There are no columns, but there are rectangular piers of grey granite; there’s very little ornamentation, but there are two elaborate pieces of stonework – Canada’s coat of arms above the door, designed by Alexander Scott Carter and carved by Louis Temporale, and a semi-abstract sculpture by Cleeve Horne that suggests a society of Canadians embracing each other.
But the real sculpture is the building itself. And the proposed addition would deface it.
Owners Northam Realty Advisors have hired architectural behemoth IBI Group for the project and the design is sloppy enough to have Bob Morris rolling in his grave. The tower would be a mix of black glass, blue glass, and some kind of stone; the architects propose that this stone, which would likely be in thin panels, would blend with the granite of the Morris building. Meanwhile, the condo’s grid of window-and-stone breaks up at the top for some kind of Deco-ish flourish. In short, it’s a mess.
A decade ago, a developer probably would have tried to knock the bank building down, or keep only its facades. This represents progress. But not enough. According to the developer’s heritage architects, Goldsmith Borgal, “The building’s exterior will not be unduly impacted.”
Nonsense. This is a building that’s designed down to the inch. That new 44-storey pile on top? That’s an “impact.”
The developers appear serious about actually building this. Northam, a real estate asset manager with holdings mostly in the GTA, is also engaged in redeveloping a 1958 office tower at Yonge and Carlton, and replacing it with – yes – an exceptionally large and homely condo tower by IBI Group.
City staff haven’t weighed in yet, but it’s hard to believe they’ll like it. Toronto planners often take a doctrinaire approach to heritage, asking for big new buildings to be designed around fragments of small, old ones. Sometimes they battle to save pieces of buildings that aren’t worth saving. But this one is. The right answer here is no.
15. City Lab: Post Modernist Landmarks added to British Inventory Fears O'Sullivan, forwarded by Geoff Kettel
Britain Wants to Protect Its Postmodernist Architecture
Following an announcement by Historic England, 17 buildings, the youngest of which was designed in 1991, will be preserved. It’s not hard to see why the newly listed buildings caught conservationists’ eyes.
Following an announcement by Historic England yesterday, the country will grant preservation orders to 17 Postmodernist buildings, the youngest of which was designed in 1991. To some, protecting such young buildings might seem a bit like preserving yesterday’s leftover sandwiches in a museum, but the sites chosen are unquestionably memorable and distinctive. They also come at a period of renewed enthusiasm for PoMo architecture in Britain, with the first exhibition overview of the subject opening at London’s Sir John Soane’s Museum on May 16. It’s not hard to see why the newly listed buildings caught conservationists’ eyes. Beyond the high-water mark of the Victorian gothic revival, it would be harder to find a more aesthetically elaborate set of buildings in English architecture.
The Aztec West Business Park, designed by architects CZWG. Source: James Davies/Historic England
Do they deserve preservation? Yes. Such processes are as much about preserving representative or striking examples of a period’s architecture as they are about creating some unassailable canon that everyone agrees is impeccable. Furthermore, Britain’s system is a graded one, with varying categories of preservation that, in their lower rungs, do not rule out any adaptation but merely require it to be sympathetic.
If quality or achievement is the criterion for preservation, it’s true that some of the 17 buildings might seem to validate the criticism that PoMo architecture is about veneer over content, taking fantastical dress-up to extremes. For others, however, this might be their charm. It’s hard not to be won over by the sheer exuberance of buildings like John Outram’s Cambridge Judge Business School, an M C Escher whirl of colonnades and gangways that seems part Egyptian temple, part Victorian factory, all given a psychedelic surface makeover by Gustav Klimt. Meanwhile, CZWG’s Aztec West Business Park, completed near Bristol in 1998, is pure Beltway Babylonian, its dramatic capital-capped windows and sweeping curves looking a Cecil B. DeMille backdrop left on the edge of a parking lot.
Tom Paterson, who owns Junction Craft Brewing, admits his new location is not exactly a high-traffic area.
"Getting people here is definitely going to be a challenge," Paterson said.
In business for seven years, the brewery is expanding its operations and moving to a new home at a historic Toronto site — the former Symes Road Incinerator.
Paterson said the plan is to continue brewing dozens of different beers, which is the bread and butter of his business. But now he also has a bar that will be open until 2 a.m. every day of the week, and a huge event space available for rent.
A bird's-eye view of Junction Craft Brewery's new event space. (Greg Ross/CBC News)
While the building looks great, it's in an industrial area that's not easily accessible by public transportation. That's why, Paterson said, like his beer, he's going to have to be crafty when it comes to attracting business.
Editor’s Note: ACO is holding our events ceremony here in October 2018, don't miss! We're planning to move the event to a party format so more can come and go to new and interesting venues in different parts of the province.