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Shaping Canadian Modernity: The 1958 Toronto City Hall and Square Competition and its Legacy


August 31, 2015
by Canadian Architect

competing modernisms: toronto’s new city hall and square

competing modernisms: toronto’s new city hall and square

Curated by George Kapelos and Christopher Armstrong, this exhibition at the Paul H. Cocker Gallery at Ryerson University’s Department of Architectural Science focuses on the 1958 international competition for the Toronto City Hall and Civic Square, and critically assesses its impact on Canadian architectural culture. The exhibition presents a selection of competition entries and features the eight finalists, including the winning scheme by Finnish architect Viljo Revell. A book, <cstyle:Italic>Competing Modernisms: Toronto’s New City Hall and Square<cstyle:>, has been published to accompany the exhibition.

Running from September 1-October 9, 2015, the exhibit focuses on the 1958 international competition for the Toronto City Hall and Civic Square and critically assesses its impact on Canadian architectural culture. A selection of competition entries will be on display, along with the eight finalists, including the winning scheme by Finnish architect Viljo Revell.

In its day, the Toronto City Hall and Square Competition was a significant event in the global architectural community, with over 500 submissions received from entrants in 42 countries. The building’s completion in 1965 proved to be equally significant to the Canadian public at large, confirming modernity as a legitimate expression of civic values and democratic ambitions. These two forces—architects eager to pursue modernity and a public willing to embrace modern architecture for public buildings—are the subject of this exhibition.

Utilizing archival material, the exhibition explores the competition’s ambitions and its lasting legacy. Submissions demonstrate the pervasiveness of postwar modernity. Entries by Canadian architects are forward-looking and represent the aspirations of young architects who subsequently rose to prominence. Across Canada, the 1958 competition and the project’s completion in 1965 greatly influenced the procurement and design of civic buildings and spaces by raising expectations for high-quality public space, spurring investment in civic architecture and infrastructure, and confirming the value of architectural competitions in fostering innovation. The competition’s success provided an incentive to architects, planners and civic leaders to reformulate approaches to public space design into the 1960s, 1970s and beyond.

The exhibition is curated by architect and urban planner George Thomas Kapelos, Associate Professor in the Department of Architectural Science at Ryerson University, and Christopher Armstrong, Emeritus Professor of History at York University. Kapelos is an award-winning educator, curator and researcher who teaches design studio and history and theory. Armstrong is the author of <I>cstyle:Italic>Making Toronto Modern, Architecture and Design 1895-1975<cstyle:>.

The companion publication entitled <cstyle:Italic>Competing Modernisms: Toronto’s New City Hall and Square<cstyle:> has been published by Dalhousie Architectural Press, and features a critical examination of the competition and its outcome and includes a selection of competition entries and submissions by finalists, illustrated with original drawings and models, as well as a complete listing of the more than 500 architects who entered. The book is available from ABC Artbooks Canada at www.abcartbookscanada.com/index.html.

Sponsored by the City of Toronto and the Toronto Public Library, a free public lecture will take place on Thursday, September 3, 2015 in the Council Chamber of Toronto City Hall, located at 100 Queen Street West at 7:00pm.

The opening reception for the exhibition takes place from 6:00pm to 8:00pm on Thursday, September 17, 2015. This event is open to the public, but please RSVP to prachi.khandekar@ryerson.ca or to 416.979.5000 x2597) by September 15, 2015.

The exhibition is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, Ryerson University and is sponsored by the Ontario Association of Architects, Perkins + Will Architects and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada.

 



Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect is a magazine for architects and related professionals practicing in Canada. Canada's only monthly design publication, Canadian Architect has been in continuous publication since 1955.
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