Marching across the crest of a wooded hillside in Don Mills, the former IBM Canada headquarters at 1150 Eglinton Avenue East was completed in 1967 for what was then the world’s dominant computer company and an icon of postwar America. The selection of John B. Parkin Associates as architect exemplified IBM’s commitment to modern design to communicate its corporate prestige, social progressiveness and technological leadership.
From Eglinton Avenue, the IBM building reads as a sprawling, ground-hugging megastructure of Louis Kahn-ish cubic modules, overlapping and interlocking as they step down the hillside. The influences of Kahn and Alvar Aalto are also apparent in the solid walls of reddish brick, a sharp divergence from Parkin’s glassy transparency of a few years earlier; the fortress-like impenetrability is only partially relieved by narrow vertical slits of bronze-toned glass in black anodized frames. Most interior spaces are oriented to the southern light, a benefit in Toronto’s often grey and wintry environment, and to views over the ravine of Ernest Thompson Seton Park. A private cloverleaf access road winds uphill to the west, leading to a secluded entrance court at the rear of the complex. Given the social context—the upheavals of the 1960s—the building’s defensive mien could be interpreted as the reaction of the famously buttoned-down IBM culture to an environment perceived as increasingly unpredictable and potentially threatening.
Presently, the IBM building seems to be facing an uncertain future: following a period as the head office of Celestica, a former subsidiary of IBM Canada, it now sits empty, awaiting new occupants or redevelopment.