04 . 01 . 2014

Toronto City Hall and Civic Square and the Strutt House honoured with with the Prix du XXe siècle

Strutt House, Aylmer, PQ – 1955-1956

Architect: James W. Strutt

Canadian architect James W. Strutt, is one of many architects who consider his own house to be a “signature piece” of his long and distinguished career.

Located in Aylmer, Quebec, the building is a deceptively simple integration of structure, building science and planning. The house is one of the first in Canada to utilize a “curtain wall” as the building envelope. The wooden hyperbolic paraboloid roof was not only the first in the country, but of its particular construction anywhere.

Strutt knew Frank Lloyd Wright, and the latter’s influence on his education is evident in the detailing of the building construction. The siting below the crest of the most southerly slope of the Gatineau Hills, the integration of the house with its site, the use of natural materials and the core as hearth surrounded by service and served areas, all reflect aspects of a “Wrightian” influence.

James W. Strutt Estate Collection

However, Strutt’s friend Buckminster Fuller had a far greater impact on the building design and structure. The overall shape of the house results from the intersection of eight rhombic volumes, each based on a grid generated from the same geometry.

This design, and the minimal use of structural material, reflects the growing interest Strutt had in Fuller’s work in geometry and weight efficiencies.

The building was built by a carpenter and helper in about six weeks in 1955-1956. For the most part, it is not attached to its footings. It did not comply with applicable building codes when constructed, and does not do so today.

(Excerpt from a presentation by Titania Truesdale.)

Jury Comments

“A rare and extraordinary example of Canadian modern architecture which remains a defining work of a significant post war Architect. Jim Strutt designed his 1956 home, experimenting with the first wooden hyperbolic paraboloid roof in Canada, which enabled him to create large expanses of glass and undulating ceilings, simplified lines and a refined esthetic quality. At the same time it led the way in demonstrating how to build a low impact, low cost structure which could be sensitively and  lightly integrated into the natural environment.”

 Toronto City Hall and Civic Square, Toronto, ON – 1965 

Photo credit: Applied Photography Ltd.

Architects: Viljo Revell and John B. Parkin Associates

In 1958, Toronto Mayor Nathan Phillips supported an international competition for a new city hall that put the city and Canada at the center of global architectural interest.

The competition attracted 520 entries from 44 countries and was won by a team led by the Finnish architect Viljo Revell. He affiliated with John B. Parkin Associates and the building was completed by 1965.

The modern sculptural design features two curving office administration towers of unequal height, which partially surround the central council chambers in the form of a domed saucer. These elements rise out of a 2-storey podium block facing onto a large civic square to the south. The square is an integral part of the design composition, a modern piazza defined by a surrounding raised walkway. The plaza contains a reflective pool/ ice rink spanned by three concrete arches; a sloping ramp that rises to the roof of the podium; as well as a large central hardscape plaza that provides a venue for major public events. It was a forward looking vision that spoke to the city that Toronto would become, and was a powerful symbol of democratic municipal governance.

As we approach the 50th anniversary of its opening, the City Hall remains a landmark and internationally recognized symbol of modern Toronto.

Jury Comments

“Toronto City Hall and its civic square are an iconic work of Canadian modern architecture. Together the highly symbolic yet functional building complex, and the eminently public space, provides an important centre to the downtown. The result of a critical international competition, which introduced the influence of the Finnish architect Revell to Canada at a key moment in the city’s development, it is perhaps the most enduring Canadian example of the 20th century municipal public space and building. It has continued to serve its original purpose, and is well loved by the community it serves. Its generous public spaces, lyrical forms, dignified materials and refined details serve as a constant reminder to citizens of the value of greater civic vision. Recent rehabilitation work has generally embodied the spirit of stewardship required to maintain our significant public heritage.”


Link to original article here


Toronto City Hall