WE SELDOM GIVE OLD CITY HALL A GLANCE, BUT UP CLOSE IT’S ONE FINE BUILDING

TORONTO’s population in the 1880’s was about 100,000, and the city fathers believed it was time to erect a public building that stood out from all the others. They hired E.J. Lennox, a local architect, to create a $200,000 court house, which soon expanded to a $1.5-million courthouse and city hall. The good fathers were shocked.Work began in 1889, and kept on going for the next 10 years. Lennox attended 520 meetings, arguing with politicians about the mounting bills. Finally in 1907 the final bill arrived, calculated on six sheets of paper. The tab – $242,870.82, with $181,255.71 still owing. That was serious cash in those days.E.J. Lennox was originally supposed to take home $68,000, but additional duties brought a hefty additional paycheck. He finally pocketed $120,000. Lennox also managed to leave his marks on the building – his engraved smiling face for one, and a string of letters spelling out E.J. Lennox Architect along all four sides of the structure.Just desserts for the penny-pinching city councillors.

TORONTO, KNOWN AS A CITY OF CHURCHES, HAS FOUND NEW USES FOR SEVERAL OF THEM

   Written and photographed by RICHARD LONGLEY – With land so expensive in this city, and an ongoing need for new housing, some elderly churches have been turned into condos. The Third Church of Christ Scientist, 196 St. George Street, for instance now crouches beneath a 20-storey, 169-unit condo tower.College Street Baptist Church, 510 College Street, is one of Toronto’s most luxurious adaptations. Heritage brickwork and gargoyles have been conserved, and one unit sold for $10.95-million.Deer Park United, 26 Delisle, was partly demolished, leaving only its tower and sections of its side walls. Plans are for a 28-storey, 292-unit condo tower and town houses with stones from the demolished church incorporated into the walls.Howard Park Methodist, 384 Sunnyside, no concierge, pool or gym and walls that are four feet thick. An interesting mix of residents, and a congenial condo board.Bathurst Street United Church, 736 Bathurst St. was once a theatre, now it’s the Randolph Theatre and College, cited by the Ontario Heritage Trust as a prime example of adaptive use of places of worship. ‘From Churches to Condos’, NOW Magazine, June 6, 2019

TWO MATCHING HOMES IN TORONTO’S GREEKTOWN – ONE TO LIVE IN; THE OTHER COULD BE FOR RENT

Architects Peter McNeil and Clarissa Nam, the co-founders of COMN Architects, have created this solution for their own housing needs on a tight budget. “In the City of Toronto, single-family detached homes have become out of reach for many, and intensification efforts have come mainly in the form of high-rise condominiums,” they observed.“There is a lack of medium density, ground-related housing options, often referred to as the missing middle.” <PHOTOS – Doublespace Photography>

IN THE FALL OF 1987 I WAS IN PARIS STUDYING FRENCH, WHEN UP POPPED AN EXHIBIT CELEBRATING TORONTO

MADELEINE CZIGLER, McLeans Magazine, October 28/1987 (edited) – “Opening for the next two weeks – an architectural celebration of TORONTO the Beautiful. Le Nouveau Nouveau Monde (The New New World), the first show about a foreign city in the spacious headquarters of the French Order of Architects.The exhibit featured the Toronto-Dominion Centre and 18 other projects built since 1965, that have won rave reviews from French journalists and architects. Remi Lopez, president of the French Order praised TORONTO as “an exemplary showcase for the harmonious blending of the old with the new.”<I Xeroxed a bunch of newspaper articles published in Le Monde,  and distributed them to my French class.> The influential Paris daily wrote that Toronto has integrated “comfort, urban scale and the mixture of functions. It’s a city ahead of its time.” The show was organized by Toronto architects Ruth Cawker and George Baird, and urban planner George Kapelos, who said “There has been an explosion on all levels in Toronto.”  Up to then, Montreal was the city that the French public associated with Canada.<PHOTO ABOVE – Toronto in the 1980’s>  With this show, French awareness of TORONTO architects had increased dramatically. Frédérique Boitard, for one, who studied urban planning and architecture at the University of Toronto, who was then developing the site of Europe’s first Disneyland outside Paris, said “There has been an explosion on all levels in Toronto. It’s time for me to visit the city again.”

FRENCH ACTOR, JACQUES TATI, FORESAW THE FUTURE IN HIS 1967 COMEDY MASTERPIECE ‘PLAYTIME’

Given the forest of high-rise office & condo buildings in downtown TORONTO, ‘Playtime’ seems like an appropriate copy.  It’s set partly in a PARIS glass and steel office building.Jacques Tati (playing Monsieur Hulot) arrives for an important meeting, but gets lost in a maze of rooms, ending up in a trade exhibition of lookalike office designs and furniture.The old Paris touch is a brief reflection of the Eiffel Tower in a glass window. A heritage structure if there ever was one.  ‘Playtime’ is a wonderful film.  <ABOVE – living in a grid of television screensHeavy traffic BELOW>

WHAT MUST BE THE SKINNIEST, PENCIL-THIN SKYSCRAPER IN MANHATTAN RISES UP

There can’t be more than one. Manhattan’s Central Park Tower on 57th Street will be the tallest residential building in the world when it’s finished. At 131 storeys and 1,550 feet, it would be the tallest building in New York City – if it wasn’t for the spire on top of One World Trade Center. When it’s completed in 2020, the tower will be home to a seven-floor Nordstrom and condominiums on the top.

THE LAST OF TORONTO’S JOY OIL GAS STATIONS PASSES THE TIME BEHIND A CHAIN LINK FENCE

They were such winsome little things, created in DETROIT by Charles and Margaret Austin in 1928. The first one arrived in TORONTO in 1936. It began selling gas for a few cents less per gallon than its competitors. Law suits from the big trusts weren’t far behind as JOY OIL spread across the city.The architecture was based on movie sets from Disney’s 1937 film ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’In the 1950’s the company ceased operations, and all of TORONTO’s – except the one at Lakeshore and Windermere Avenue – shut down. It was moved across the road, renovated between 2006 and 2008, and locked behind a chain link fence. There it remains.The hope is that someone somewhere will rescue the little station. There have been proposals from a food service company to a bike rental shop – but the castle is still waiting.

THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO IS PLANNING A NEW TOWER FOR ITS ST. GEORGE CAMPUS

Designed by NEW YORK-based Weiss/Manfredi Architects and TORONTO’s Teeple Architects, the 13-storey structure will rise at 112 College Street, near Queen’s Park.

The unique building will no doubt stand out against its surroundings – some of which are already landmarks. Shaped as a truncated trapezoidal pyramid, the PIE Complex will have shared rooftop terraces, and the bottom two floors will be recessed – “lifting” the building off the ground level.