Happy Birthday Toronto's New City Hall - at 52, you look good.

September 13, 2017 | Bill V.

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September 13th, 2017, marks the 52nd anniversary of the opening of Toronto’s "new" City Hall. The international architectural design competition for the building, which began in 1958, drew over 500 entrants. The winning design was awarded to Finnish architect, Viljo Gabriel Revell, who died in 1964. Revell would not live long enough to see the project to completion, and he was also disappointed to have not been awarded the contract to design the furniture.


Competing modernisms  Toronto's new City Hall and Square

Competing Modernisms Toronto's New City Hall and Square: "This book examines the history, impact, and influence of Toronto's 1958 City Hall and Square competition, which resulted in the building designed by Viljo Revell. The book discusses the impact of this competition on the design of public institutions and urban public spaces in Canada, and reflects on the value of architectural competitions as Modern architecture developed in the mid-20th century."


Conditions of Competition for the City Hall and Square original proposal document

Information about the design competition with examples of the key proposals including photographs of hundreds of proposals can be found on here at A Grand Design: The Toronto City Hall Design Competition. My colleague Kathy was involved in some of the research and design for this project and she's written a very interesting blog about the process and a former colleague Cynthia has also blogged about the building. If you're interested in the competition we have scanned pdfs of the original Conditions of Competition and the City Hall and Square Competition; supplementary questions and answers.


Aug 15 1965 From roof of Victory Building Toronto Star photo

1965 Toronto Star Archives photo of New City Hall construction site looking north


Construction site of new City Hall  ca. 196- photo by Eric Arthur

1960s photo by Eric Arthur of the construction site of the new City Hall


There's been a lot written online about the story of the process and building competition - you may enjoy some of these external blog posts as well:


Civic symbol creating Toronto's new City Hall  1952-1966

Civic symbol : Creating Toronto's New City Hall, 1952-1966 discusses "When Toronto's New City Hall opened in 1965, it was an iconic modernist symbol for what was still a sedate and conservative city. Its futuristic design by Finnish architect Viljo Revell, composed of two curved towers flanking a clam-shaped council chamber, remains as strange and distinctive today as it did fifty years ago. In Civic Symbol, Christopher Armstrong chronicles the complex and controversial development of this urban landmark from the initial international competition to the many debates that surrounded its construction and furnishing. "


Viljo Revell 1964 Toronto Star Archives photo

Toronto Star Archives photo 1964 Viljo Revell


Controversy was not over after new City Hall was built as Mayor Philip Givens then ran into difficulty about the bronze Henry Moore sculpture in front of the building. He ultimately succeeded with a public appeal that raised the $100,000 cost (Moore himself reduced the price) ... but that's a story for another blog post.  Formally known as Three Way Piece No. 2 it's more colloquially known as The Archer and was unveiled in 1966.

1966 Toronto Star Archives photo of Henry Moore's The Archer

1966 Toronto Star Archives photo of Henry Moore's "The Archer" sculpture in front of new City Hall.


1975 Toronto Star Archives photo of the Archer

1975 Toronto Star Archives photo of "The Archer" by Henry Moore in front of new City Hall


Henry Moore felt a deep relationship with Toronto and in 1974 he donated 200 plaster casts, drawings and other works to the Art Gallery of Ontario (who now have the largest collection of Moore's works). The AGO built a special gallery to permanently exhibit the plaster casts of the bronze sculptures. In turn the AGO then had a large bronze by Henry Moore installed at the south west corner of Dundas and McCaul. It was a favorite of the community and was just recently moved to the revitalized Grange Park behind the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Henry Moore's Reclining Figure attracts the attention of a young visitor to the AGO

1978 Toronto Star Archives photo Henry Moore Reclining Figure


 Book cover of Henry Moore remembered : the collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario



1979 Henry Moore bronze sculpture in front of the Art Gallery of Ontario - Toronto Star Archives photo

1979 Henry Moore bronze sculpture in front of the Art Gallery of Ontario - Toronto Star Archives photo