Toronto City Hall: How Finnish architecture rebranded a city

Discussion in 'Buildings, Architecture & Urban Design' started by M II A II R II K, Sep 18, 2010.

  1. M II A II R II K

    M II A II R II K Senior Member

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    Toronto City Hall: How Finnish architecture rebranded a city


    September 18th, 2010

    By Lisa Rochon

    Read More: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news...architecture-rebranded-a-city/article1712186/

    Made modern: That was what happened to Toronto when it launched a 1958 international design competition and landed an emerging star of Finnish modernism, Viljo Revell, to design its futuristic City Hall. It was an alien thing: a building of sublime concrete instead of Victorian brick; a building mandated by the sophisticated Nathan Phillips, Toronto’s first Jewish mayor, in a city dominated by a Protestant ethos. New City Hall was architecture that imagined something wide open and worldly for a collective consciousness. When it opened in 1965, the city was instantly rebranded.

    Conceived together with his Helsinki teammates, Bengt Lundsten, Seppo Valjus and Heikki Castren, Revell proposed two curved tall towers of asymmetric heights that seemed to cradle the council chamber in a powerful embrace. It was as if a massive column of concrete scored with vertical fluting had been cracked open to reveal a civic surprise: a mushroom, a space ship, possibly a white pearl.

    This September, two birthdays are being celebrated – Revell’s centenary and the 45th anniversary of City Hall – with an exhibition and symposium, Revell/Toronto/Helsinki: Finnish Architecture and the Image of Modern Toronto. The exhibition, curated by Helsinki-based architect Tuula Revell, daughter of Viljo, kicked off at City Hall on Sept. 13 with impassioned tributes by Mayor David Miller, former mayor David Crombie and Ambassador of Finland H.E. Risto Piipponen.

    Finland is a land of birch trees and jagged outcrops of rock that inspires epic pilgrimages among architects. Legendary Toronto-born architect Frank Gehry, who spoke at the exhibition opening to an overflow audience in the council chambers, has travelled to the Nordic country seven times.

    His first exposure to the Finnish aesthetic – one that privileges craft, innovation and the pleasure of pure graphic form – came during a public lecture in 1946 at the University of Toronto, when acclaimed architect Alvar Aalto displayed one of his early laminated plywood chairs, designed during the 1940s. Three decades later, Gehry travelled for his first time to Helsinki to visit the Aalto office; Aalto was out of town, but his assistant allowed Gehry to simply sit in his office chair, soaking up the spirit of the man, his books, the art hanging on his walls.




    A symposium and exhibit are being held to mark the 45th anniversary of the building designed by Viljo Revell – and his colleagues

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    City Hall under construction in June of 1965

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  2. Long Island Mike

    Long Island Mike Senior Member

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    Toronto City Hall by Viljo Revell: a 1960s Classic...and the Registry Building...

    MARK: Good article about Viljo Revell and Toronto City Hall-or "Spaceship Toronto" as I refer to the rotunda...
    Thanks to this website I learned about the old Registry Building and seeing pics of it I feel an attempt should have been made to save it...but remember back in the 60s preservation took a back seat to the "Newer is Always Better" mentality....

    The best (or worst) example of this mentality is losing Penn Station in Manhattan (NYC) around the same mid 60s time period - a move that spawned the historic preservation movement to a large extent...I mentioned it because the Station just passed its 100th Birthday back on September 8th of the first train to use it-a LIRR train. The tunnels under the Hudson River to New Jersey opened later around Thanksgiving back in 1910.

    Thoughts and observations from LI MIKE
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2010
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  3. HHC

    HHC Active Member

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    We've lost a hell of a lot in this city due to urban renewal but the demolition of Penn Station was probably the worst crime of all mankind. By the way all those building's you see to the right of city hall are long gone now thanks to the Eaton Center. I believe it razed a total of 5 or 6 blocks, all historic buildings.

    Almost all of this is now gone:
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    Here's the trash that replaced those priceless historic buildings:

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    Oh how I wish I could go back and give the 70's a royal slap in the face.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2010
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  4. taal

    taal Senior Member

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    They honestly don't look that impressive in those pictures ... not much in the way of details, are there any pictures of those older buildings ... I love the bell / trinity office complex personally.
     
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  5. junctionist

    junctionist Senior Member

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    It would have been better to save that complex of warehouses, but the Eaton Centre turned out fine and successful. They saved Holy Trinity and Old City Hall and wrapped an attractive modern complex around them. The biggest failure was the way the complex met Yonge Street.
     
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  6. adma

    adma Superstar

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    The warehouses went when it was "safe" to get rid of them, that's for sure--I don't recall any massive campaign on their behalf, though I'm sure the Sewellian elements on council and in the community voiced their concerns to no avail. And Margie Zeidler was still a teenager then. So we should be careful in viewing even the relatively recent past *too* much through a present-day filter--although yes, if we had to do it all over again, Bell and the Marriott and RyeBiz would be in those retrofitted/added-to warehouses, I admit...
     
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  7. adma

    adma Superstar

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    Oh, and THIS is my favourite Revell building. Sorry, Torontonians.
     
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  8. HHC

    HHC Active Member

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    They don't look attractive in those pictures? They sure look hell of a lot better than what replaced it, that's for sure. The Eaton Centre's appearance is a disgrace to the city, IMO. It's so unfortunate the damn thing takes up a million square feet. That's a lot of history lost, especially since it sits smack dab in the middle of what was a very developed, historic, and dense part of downtown. It would have been better off in a far flung suburb like Square One is.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2010
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  9. adma

    adma Superstar

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    Sure, one can lament the demolitions that resulted in the Eaton Centre; but the only sorts who'd extrapolate that into a loathing of the Eaton Centre itself (actually, one of Toronto's most important architectural landmarks of the 1970s, most especially for the Galleria within) are Prince Charles-adoring idiots. Look: we're not dealing with a Penn Station or Euston Arch situation. Or, more properly, it's as if either were replaced with a Mies design rather than second-rate swill.

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    You might as well be declaring the McMaster Health Sciences Centre (by the same architect BTW) an overbearing disgrace to Hamilton's Westdale neighbourhood.
     
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  10. Redroom Studios

    Redroom Studios Senior Member

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    in my handy book of 20th Century Architecture, there are only 3 Canadian examples included (an oversight or a commentary?) For better or worse, those are the Expo 67 Habitat in Montreal, Lethbridge University in Alberta and The Eaton Centre here in TO. So you see, it has some degree of world renown. As the text says, "The Mother of all modern shopping malls, The Eaton Centre is also one of the finest"... based mainly on its interior environment.

    With the title of this thread in mind it seems regrettable that Toronto City Hall was not included!
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2010
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  11. doug

    doug Active Member

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    Those priceless historic buildings had their stairwells filled with concrete to prevent them from falling down.
     
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  12. junctionist

    junctionist Senior Member

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    It's an oversight. Some architecture writers focus too much on the U.S., England, France, and Germany, and treat the rest of the world as an afterthought. I recently found on a newstand a special issue of a mainstream American magazine (Time, it might have been) that was supposed to present the best recent architecture around the world and it was focused quite strongly on the U.S. In reality, there was nothing inferior in terms of 20th century architecture in Canada and there are much more than 3 outstanding buildings that deserve a mention in books about the subject.
     
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  13. Urban Shocker

    Urban Shocker Doyenne

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    I can see why the Eaton Centre might be included in a survey of world architecture while Revell's expressively Modernist City Hall isn't. Our beloved civic building wasn't particularly influential, whereas Eb's bold theft of the galleria idea - combined with the suburban shopping mall model - as a means of reviving tired urban spaces, was. As significant city hall's go, Mississauga gets more international mileage out of their civic building than we do with ours, and I think that's also fair.
     
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  14. adma

    adma Superstar

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    ...and by the time the Eaton Centre existed, even readily deemed "dated". Like, Space Age Saarinenesque--come to think of it, it was already teetering on "datedness" the moment it opened. Indeed, the now-loathed Boston City Hall was more au courant and influential on that count...
     
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  15. junctionist

    junctionist Senior Member

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    And yet, Toronto's City Hall was a stunning building when it opened, one's that's still beautiful. It was an architectural achievement that shouldn't be belittled just because the architectural trends were pointing towards Brutalism. New City Hall used concrete in a way that could teach a lot of Brutalist architects how to use concrete attractively.
     
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