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Globe and Mail: Eugene Janiss Architect
Dave LeBlanc | February 16, 2018

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The Janiss genius: An architect who made his mark on Toronto

Apartment Building, Graydon Hall
The original lobby of 123 Edward St., Toronto, designed by architect Eugene Janiss.

The original lobby of 123 Edward St., Toronto, designed by architect Eugene Janiss. 



It's just an oversized waiting room now: Knapsacks tossed on benches and expectant stares directed at the trio of elevator doors. Body language here says: "Hurry up at your appointment so we can leave."

123 Edward St., photographed in 1969. PANDA ASSOCIATES COLLECTION 

But in 1964, the newly minted lobby of the Toronto Professional Building at 123 Edward St. was all about lingering. To wit: a curved, second-floor balcony serviced by twin floating staircases; a "flying saucer" information desk; by the window-wall, a shallow, burbling fountain; overhead, a complex, metal latticework of triangular domes featuring soft, hidden lighting; walls dressed in gorgeous purple and blue tile with gold accents; shiny floors of speckled blue terrazzo. 

It was, says Steve Russell, co-author and editor of books published by the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, "a marvellous space.


"Very healing, water sounds. Beautiful."

Save for the terrazzo floors and the tile around the elevator doors on the second floor, it's all gone now. So perhaps it's better I can't ring up architect Eugene Janiss (1911-2004) to get his opinion. "He was very fussy about everything," confirms his only child, 75-year-old Vija Janiss Tripp. "Everything had to be just so."

At least the handsome, pleated curtain-walled exterior won't change; then again, in development-crazy Toronto, who knows?

Architect Eugene Janiss pictured in a family photo.

Architect Eugene Janiss completed his doctorate in architecture and planning in Germany in 1947. 


That Dr. Janiss  while he received his bachelor's degree in his native Latvia in 1943, his doctorate in architecture and planning was completed in Germany in 1947  turned to fine art later in life is understandable, since no two buildings that sprung from his fertile drafting board were alike. All, however, were lovingly crafted as if formed out of sculpting clay. "He really admired the Guggenheim Museum in New York," Ms. Tripp says. "Everything that was kind of far out like that." 

His churches were far out indeed. Viewed from above, Hilltop Chapel in Etobicoke is an abstracted fish, complete with tail; viewed from the sidewalk, it's a series of soft curves and recesses in brick, some now dressed in ivy. At Our Lady Queen of the World in Richmond Hill, Ont., the façade represents two praying hands (today, an expanded foyer obscures this). And, like a true artist, Dr. Janiss designed the furniture and light fixtures. 

Hilltop Chapel in Etobicoke

Hilltop Chapel in Etobicoke is shaped like an abstracted fish, complete with tail.


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