Vacant and decaying for several years, Peter Dickinson’s Tweedsmuir Apartments are now being demolished to make way for a condominium development. The two 12-storey towers at 310 and 320 Tweedsmuir Avenue, completed within months of the architect’s untimely death in 1961, were his last residential buildings in Toronto and the culmination of his approach to the design of luxury apartments.
Compared to the exposed concrete floor slabs and brick infill of earlier Dickinson buildings, the Tweedsmuir Apartments show his increased emphasis on clean lines, minimal detailing and visual lightness. Curtain walls with precast spandrels faced in white stone chips, a system Dickinson first used on commercial office buildings, produced thin, crisp wall planes that appear to float independently of the structure. Balconies are cantilevered outside the building envelope, their wire-glass panels (now clouded by dirt and corrosion) enhancing the transparent effect. At ground level, the trademark Dickinson design cues remained: the inventively planned courtyards, elegantly covered walkways and richly finished lobbies (still with their period fixtures and furnishings) epitomize the glamour of modern high-rise living in the early 1960s. Panels of bright red and orange mosaic tile discreetly highlight the main entrances.
Long before the wrecking crews arrived, the Tweedsmuir Apartments appeared to be in the process of demolition by neglect: two once-fine buildings poorly maintained, then emptied of tenants and allowed to deteriorate beyond hope of rehabilitation. Their destruction is the latest stage of a contentious redevelopment scheme launched more than a decade ago, as documented in a City of Toronto report from October 2009.
For a comprehensive overview of Peter Dickinson’s work, see John Martins-Manteiga’s new biography and monograph.