12 . 10 . 2014

New Signage Atop TD Centre Generating Controversy

AUTHOR Jack Landau

Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s TD Centre, the first modern high-rise office complex in Toronto, is unique among neighbouring Financial District office towers due to its lack of illuminated signage. All other major banking towers and complexes in the Financial District have large lit logos emblazoned upon their upper floors—logos which were included in the original designs of these towers—some of which have been upgraded or changed over the years to reflect changes in ownership or branding.

Back in 2011, Cadillac Fairview, the owners of the TD Centre, applied for a permit to erect illuminated wall signage on the complex’s most recent addition to the complex, the Ernst & Young Tower. The City approved the application, but it was then appealed and brought before the City’s Sign Variance Committee in 2012, where approval was overturned due to the signage being deemed too large. Despite this, the possibility of future more appropriately sized signage was left open, much to the chagrin of architecture and heritage enthusiasts who were lobbying against the plans to alter the centre’s pristine appearance.

Now, plans have moved forward for smaller signage, which has just been installed atop the Ernst & Young Tower. The 133-metre-tall Ernst & Young Tower was built in 1991, designed in the same International Style school of Modernism seen on the two original Mies van der Rohe towers in the complex. Designed by Bregman + Hamann Architects and Scott Tan de Bibiana, the 31-storey office building deviates ever so slightly from Mies van der Rohe’s original vision, incorporating into its design the Art Deco facade of the 1930s-era Toronto Stock Exchange building on Bay Street, just south of King. The original complex and its modern additions are highly regarded in the world of architecture for their structural and ornamental simplicity as well as the unprecedented attention paid to detail and materials.

New signage was first spotted on the Ernst & Young Tower’s north facade yesterday afternoon by one of our Forum contributors, and the reaction in our forum thread has been passionate to say the least. Despite the tower being built relatively recently, it is still regarded as a continuation of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s original vision, and many are of the opinion is that it should be treated as such.

Others have the opinion that since the Ernst & Young Tower was built decades after the death of Mies van der Rohe, with un-Miesian features like an incorporated heritage facade, it shouldn’t be bound to the same rules and standards as the complex’s original towers.

On both sides of the argument, people are referencing the minor changes and alterations to Mies’ vision that have been allowed over the years, including modifications to the sleek black signage of the complex’s retail units, and the skateboard-proofing of the granite benches found around the TD Centre grounds. Many feel that any further changes will detract even more from the complex’s architectural statement, while supporters argue these past changes, coupled with the age and design of the E&Y Tower, justifies further modification.

This is a truly contentious issue among architecture enthusiasts, and we would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. You can get involved in the discussion by visiting the associated Forum thread, or by leaving a comment in the space provided at the bottom of this page.

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