Lord Lansdowne Public School

33 Robert Street, Toronto, ON.

Lord Lansdowne Public School is a significant work of the Modern Movement in Toronto, constructed during a dynamic period of school building to accommodate the emerging baby boom generation.  Designed by architect Peter Pennington, executed under the direction of the Toronto Board of Education’s Frederick C. Etherington, the school is an excellent example of expressive modernism, influenced by the 1951 Festival of Britain.

Located on Spadina Crescent opposite University of Toronto’s former Knox College, Lord Lansdowne Public School replaced an existing Victorian school.  The need for the existing school to remain in use during construction influenced the site planning of the new school.  Designed as an ensemble within a park, the expressive composition comprises a nine-sided pavilion ringed by 18 structural steel pylons, a gymnasium block (atop a kindergarten and underground parking), an entrance and linking volume, along with a freestanding exhaust chimney.

The modernity of the building is expressed in its assemblage of volumes, unorthodox geometries, structural exoskeleton, abundant glazing, modern building technologies and materials, and vibrant accent colours.  Lord Lansdowne School also establishes a dialogue with the neighbouring Victorian houses.  Its serrated roof profile and bands of alternating brick colours resonant with the gabled brick houses opposite.

Lord Lansdowne Public School was contemporaneous with Metropolitan Toronto School For the Deaf – Davisville Junior Public School and Day Nursery (1962), as well as Parkway Vocational School (1963), among others.  Executed by a design team under Frederick Etherington, these buildings share a similar spirit of innovation, expression, optimism, and architectural character.

The school was named after the Governor General that served from 1883 to 1888, Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne (1845-1927).

For a 1960s building, the school was an early addition to the City of Toronto Heritage Register in 1983.  Despite the contextual qualities of Lord Lansdowne Public School, it was excluded from the Harbord Village Heritage Conservation District Plan.

Today, Lord Lansdowne Public School is a French immersion school thus part of a continuum of educational activities at the site that began in 1888.