The city of Toronto is the largest metropolis in Canada, with a population of 2.5 million, rising rapidly at 80,000 to 100,000 people per year. The architecture and infrastructure of this city are of utmost importance. It was surrounded by plenty of lakes, rivers, and creeks, making it a great trade location, and that is precisely what made it so popular in the 19th century. Naturally, numerous industries also cropped up in this area; owing to which most of the architecture and important historical landmarks that one sees today came up here. Soon with the railway lines coming up on the other side of the town, the port area was largely abandoned and people settled closer to the lines. This also led to the existing architecture around the port either being razed down or being adaptively reused.
The early 19th century Toronto homes were built mostly in the Georgian style of architecture. These homes had symmetric forms and fenestration, constructed in exposed brick or stone, multi-pane windows, side-gabled or hipped roof, transom window over the paneled front door, stucco work, pediment or crown and pilasters at front entry, cornice with dentils, water table or belt course, and so much more! This style of building houses was seen predominantly amongst the wealthy class in Toronto and in neighborhoods like Bridle Path and Rosedale.
The late 19th century saw a rise in the Victorian style of building homes. Homes built in this style of architecture had steeply pitched roofs, exposed or colorfully painted bricks, ornate gables, painted iron railings, churchlike rooftop finials, sliding sash and canted bay windows, and octagonal or round towers and turrets to draw the eye upwards. These houses were mostly two or three-storied and narrow in nature. Hence they were built mostly in the middle-class suburbs of the city where individual properties were smaller. Houses like these were mostly built in the Toronto neighborhoods of The Annex, Bellwoods, and Parkdale.
Commercial architecture in Toronto mostly came up when people felt the need for offices and workplaces. Toronto has grown to be the metropolitan hub of Canada and hence needed to house the ever-increasing number of top companies coming into the city. Owing to a rise in the number of companies coming in, the city had to fulfill the space requirements for these firms by building tall skyscrapers in the Financial District. The famous Toronto-Dominion Centre comprising 6 black international style towers by Mies van der Rohe is also located in the same area. The tallest tower among the cluster was crowned as the tallest building in Toronto from 1967 to 1972.
Downtown Toronto has countless old structures. The old and current city halls are two such buildings. The Old City Hall with its classic late-Victorian Romanesque Revival style of architecture was built in 1899. It has low, broad Roman arches over arcades and doorways, patterned masonry over windows, multiple floors, round towers with conical roofs, stained glass, and pilasters. The New City Hall is located right across the street from the old one and bears no resemblance to the latter. Designed by Architect Viljo Revell, it was opened in 1965.
Toronto is home to numerous universities that also play a pivotal role in the architecture of the city’s fabric. The University of Toronto or U of T / UToronto as it is fondly called is a public research university located near Queen’s Park. The university is spread over a radius of about 2kms and also houses quite a few heritage structures. The Front Campus, the Main Building of University College, the Convocation Hall with its iconic pillared rotunda, Knox College, Hart House, and Great Hall to name a few. The architecture of the buildings in the university is a combination of Romanesque and Gothic Revival styles of architecture.
Toronto has developed rapidly from being just another suburb to practically one of the most hustle-bustle places in Canada. The city has watched the urban fabric change, evolve, and transform to better accommodate the growing needs and demands of its people. The city has seen the development of various kinds, including but not limited to transport, communication, industrialization, and of course, architecture. The architecture of the city has progressed with great vigor but has still stayed true to its roots. The architectural heritage has been well documented, preserved, and protected. The tall skyscrapers and modern, futuristic buildings have been designed keeping in mind the context that the city has been set in. Not only do the old architectural marvels still stand tall but they are also given their rightful space in the city’s ever-increasing skyline. One must therefore look to the city of Toronto to learn how to strike a balance between the past, present, and the future while ensuring that none of them lose their importance in any way.
Toronto Guardian (2021). The History of Toronto Architecture. [online]. Available at: www. torontoguardian.com [Accessed 17 April 2021].