Bata International Centre

59 Wynford Drive, Toronto, ON.

“Situated on a height of land in Toronto’s north end, the simple, modular edifice exemplifies the ideal of the building in a park. Simple and seemingly weightless, it rests on rows of columns, reminiscent of an ancient Greek temple. Unadorned yet poetic, the architecture pays homage to the past while extolling the virtues of the future.”

-Christopher Hume, 2005

Bata International Centre was the global headquarters of a shoe manufacturing empire founded in what is now the Czech Republic.  It is a significant example of commercial and employment activity within Don Mills New Town.

The building was directly associated with Thomas J. Bata Jr. (1914-2008), “shoemaker to the world.”  Just prior to moving the corporate headquarters to Toronto, the company had 66 factories and 80,000 workers worldwide.

Sited with a commanding visual presence along the Don River valley, Bata International Centre was characterized primarily by its three storey, reinforced concrete structure.   Designed by John C. Parkin, Bata International Centre was influenced by Emhart Manufacturing Company’s Research and Administration Building (1963) in Bloomfield, Connecticut, by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore Owings and Merrill.

Parkin took the concept of a three-dimensional grid of a commercial warehouse and refined it to create a handsome office building.  The long, rectangular floorplates and abundant glazing provided bright, well-lit workspaces and a strong visual connection to the adjacent landscape.  The walls at the ground floor were deeply recessed behind the concrete columns, which were exposed to great effect contributing to the temple-like character of the building.

Bata International Centre was among a number of buildings by the firm in Don Mills.  These include Ortho Pharmaceuticals, Don Mills Collegiate, St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church, and the Don Mills Convenience Centre (demolished).  In addition, the firm designed a home for the Bata family near their company town, Batawa, in eastern Ontario.

Bata International Centre was demolished in 2007 for the construction of the Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Centre.