For the finest of U of T architecture, check out this article
U of T’s alternately Gothic and Brutalist buildings aren’t the only interesting part of the city’s skyline. While Toronto may lack a truly iconic piece of architecture (besides that one random tower), there’s no shortage of eye-catching buildings with unusual features or a surprising history. Here are a few highlights, old and new.
This unassuming building at the intersection of Wellington East and Front Street is often called Toronto’s Flatiron Building — in reference to its pointed shape — shared with the Fuller Building in New York City. However it’s far shorter, coming in at five floors to its Manhattan counterpart’s 22. Still, the Gooderham Building distinctive, charming, and intrinsically linked to Toronto’s history. The building was commissioned by George Gooderham — scion of the family behind Gooderham and Worts — the company responsible for the creation of what is now the Distillery District and a major engine for Canadian economic growth in the late 19th century. The building was designed by David Roberts Jr. and constructed from 1891 to 1892. As of January, office space in the Gooderham Building is renting for $64 a square foot
Toronto Dominion Centre
In some ways the TD Centre doesn’t look that exciting; just a cluster of black skyscrapers. But the apparent normality of the complex speaks to the success of the man who led its design. German-American architect Mies van der Rohe helped define the shape of modern architecture through his involvement in Germany’s Bauhaus school in the ‘20s and ‘30s, and then put his ideas on minimalism and functionality into practice in buildings across the world. So if the buildings of TD Centre — the first completed by 1967 and the last in 1991 — look too much like stereotypical skyscrapers, it’s because their designer was partially responsible for that stereotype. The dark exteriors of the towers aren’t the most welcoming, but it’s beautiful how the pavilion-like ground floors fill with light and the grid pattern windows echo the ceiling lights.
First Canadian Place
Like the TD Centre, First Canadian Place is another sleek, simple building that no longer appears particularly flashy. But open its completion in 1975 it was the tallest building in the Commonwealth, announcing to the world Toronto’s growing economic clout. Designed by Bregman + Hamann Architects, the building still retains its charm. Its white exterior (originally marble but now replaced with layered glass) makes the tower stand out from the surrounding skyscrapers. Night or day, there’s something oddly comforting about the way it shines in the distance, a feeling captured on a new wave album cover (http://youtu.be/OutoLOvtAzQ) from not long after its construction.
Canada’s National Ballet School
Ballet school evokes images of tireless practice and training, all behind closed doors. KPMB Architects’ (the same team behind the new Rotman building) expansion of Canada’s National Ballet School, completed in 2005 under the name Project Grand Jeté, literally turns this idea inside out. The school’s original buildings are enveloped by new glass structures, projecting practice rooms out over Jarvis Street. Distinctions between the academy and the city are blurred, and ballet is more accessible to those that might not be able to afford performance tickets. All you have do to see a practice is walk past the school.
222 Jarvis Street
A mix between an upside-down pyramid, a Le Corbusier concrete creation, and an unbelievable building from a children’s book, it’s surprising that 222 Jarvis Street’s sheer architectural insouciance hasn’t gained more notice. Upon its construction in the 1971, the building served as Sears’ Canada headquarters, but it was bought by the Ontario government in 2007, and slated for a massive eco-friendly overhaul. Basic work has been completed on new features like green roofs, solar panels, and a more efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, but the province is looking to sell the building for profit.