Coca-Cola headquarters still The Real Thing

IMG_6414 Coca-Cola HQ 2015 LR

During the 1950s and 60s much of Toronto’s industry relocated to the burgeoning suburbs, drawn by lower taxes, new highway systems, improved truck transport and the comparatively bucolic surroundings. Coca-Cola Canada joined the exodus in 1963, decamping to their new Mathers & Haldenby-designed offices and bottling plant at 42 Overlea Boulevard in Thorncliffe Park. Nearly fifty years later, the complex is as immaculate as when the first fifteen-cent Cokes rolled off the production line.

Positioned for maximum visibility by automobile traffic, the Coca-Cola administrative building is wrapped in curtain walls of clear glass and pristine white spandrel panels. Perimeter columns placed outside the building envelope allow the window glass to flow across the building without interruption. The columns themselves are clad in polished copper, an unusual material choice; the gleaming metal is a colourful foil to the white spandrels and perhaps refers to the copper tanks and piping within the bottling plant. Visually anchoring the building to the site is a monolithic courtyard wall of smooth black granite, sculpted in an abstract pattern of circles and squares and featuring the famous Coca-Cola script. Vertical aluminum louvers filter sunlight on the east and west elevations. The original interiors by Toronto design firm J&J Brook captured the new 1960s corporate palette with rich tones of orange, purple, olive, gold and brown.

The long, low bottling plant to the east is much less interesting. Seemingly endless streams of Cokes were once visible through the strip windows; unfortunately, that spectacle of mass production is now performed elsewhere. Nestled in the courtyard between the two buildings is a literal example of Pop Art—Walter Yarwood’s bronze tower of interlocking Coke bottles. It’s an important if little-known piece that warrants comparison with the contemporary works of Andy Warhol or Jasper Johns.

Home to the Thorncliffe Park horse-racing track from 1917 to 1952, Thorncliffe Park was developed during the late 1950s and 60s for a mix of residential, retail and light-industrial uses. Other period buildings along Overlea Boulevard are the former Barber-Ellis offices and warehouse by John B. Parkin Associates (20 Overlea Boulevard, 1964) and an office building by Crang & Boake for their own architectural practice (86 Overlea Boulevard, 1964).

2 Responses to “Coca-Cola headquarters still The Real Thing”

  1. 1 donnie May 8, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    Do you know they are tearing this building down?

  2. 2 Catherine Nasmith November 25, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    Decision last week to leave the office bullding pasted onto the front of a new Costco store, the design respects the streetscape orienting the store away from the historic element and….they will probably sell coke there…..but still Urban Taxidermy.

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