Search Results for '"JOHN B. PARKIN"'

Marketing Mies at the TD Centre

TD 4 V4

Completed in 1967 to designs by the pioneering Modernist master Mies van der Rohe, the Toronto-Dominion Tower immediately redefined the Toronto skyline and financial district. The centrepiece of the new Toronto-Dominion Centre, the city’s first major multitower office complex, the TD Tower was the tallest building in Canada and one of the tallest in the world, an enormous rectangular monolith of black steel and bronze glass extruded 54 storeys above the corner of King and Bay.

With the Toronto-Dominion Bank planning to occupy only a portion of their 1.7 million square-foot tower, in 1964 the bank and development partners Cemp Investments Ltd. commissioned an elaborate full-colour brochure to help attract major corporate tenants as well as appropriately A-list finance, law and accounting firms. At a lofty $6 per square foot, leases were some 20% above the going rate for premium Toronto office space.

Prospective tenants were invited to partake in more than just a new office building. “Great cities deserve great buildings,” read the foreword, signed by TD president Allen Lambert and Cemp VP (and liquor magnate) Charles Bronfman. “The Toronto Dominion Bank Tower, as such a great building, will bring grandeur and serenity to the core of the city…It is our hope that the Centre will inspire other undertakings for the betterment of Toronto’s environment for work and human relationship. The completion of its first phase in the Centennial Year heralds Canada’s second century, and marks a significant architectural contribution to the future of a great Canadian city.”

TD 8 V4

References to the Canadian centennial recur throughout the brochure, reinforcing the building’s positioning as an expression of an optimistic, forward-looking nation driving ahead into its second century as well as a transformative nexus for dynamic and innovative business leadership. Renewal of Toronto’s aging, cluttered core was not neglected, either: the TD Centre would be at the vanguard of a rejuvenated downtown, its graceful proportions and spacious plaza providing light, air, space and greenery for all. “Business welcomes such change,” the copy confides, “not for reasons of altruism, but because it makes the best of business sense.”

TD 7 V3

With appeals to city- and nation-building complete, the brochure’s latter third is about power, luxury and lifestyle. The self-contained nature of the TD Centre and its many amenities—“a city within a city”—promise a reassuringly insular alternative if urban renewal doesn’t quite work out. Elaborately detailed renderings depict the era’s trappings of business success: the boardroom tables extending almost to infinity, the acres of attentive clerical staff and the expansive, sleekly appointed executive offices with skyline views and leather Eames lounge chairs. The restaurant and lounge on the 54th floor represent sophisticated, monied leisure, the swank alcoves of deep-toned turquoise blues, greens and browns populated by women in cocktail dresses and men in dark suits and narrow ties.

TD 10 V4TD 9 V4TD 12 V3TD 13 V3

It’s a compelling presentation, and no doubt contributed to the TD Centre’s great success. And Mies? His name is nowhere to be found in the brochure, except as a quote in the foreword. Although Mies was the primary architect and a widely-recognized figure, he was not officially licensed to practice architecture in Ontario; thus, the decision was made to list only the architects of record, John B. Parkin Associates and Bregman & Hamann, in promotional materials.

TD 15 V3


Imperial Oil’s Parthenon of petroleum

Imperial Oil’s Ontario regional headquarters was truly a building of the Automotive Age, meant to be perceived not by pedestrians strolling the sidewalk, but from behind the wraparound windshield of a Buick Electra at speed. Completed in 1962 on a verdant hillside at 825 Don Mills Road, overlooking the busy intersection of Don Mills Road and Eglinton Avenue, the Imperial Oil building was as long as a football field and sleekly clad in an endless grid of sculpted white precast panels.

John B. Parkin Associates designed Imperial Oil with Classical formality and the rectilinear lines of the International Style. The ground floor was recessed some 20 feet and clad in dark plum-coloured brick, making the building appear to hover above the site. Exposed structural columns defined a broad south-facing podium, fronted with reflecting pools, fountain jets and a row of spotlights to light up the facade at night. The main lobby, accessed from a large surface parking lot at the rear, offered views of traffic whizzing by through floor-to-ceiling glass. A technical innovation was the neoprene seals between the window glass and precast panels, used for the first time in Canada, which eliminated bulky metal window frames. Imperial Oil was awarded a 1964 Massey Medal for Architecture and an honourable mention at the Sao Paulo International Biennale of Architecture and Design.

The building was not to last, however. Imperial Oil moved out in the early 1990s and, with the commercial office market flatlining, the building was summarily demolished. Its site is now the parking lot of a big-box supermarket. Only the crumbling stub of the service drive remains.

Neighbouring Wynford Drive is still lined with fine examples of 1960s Modernist buildings, including A.C. Nielsen at 39 Wynford Drive (Peter Dickinson Associates / Webb & Menkes, 1963, altered), Texaco Canada at 90 Wynford Drive (Bregman & Hamann, 1968), Bell Canada at 100 Wynford Drive (Webb Zerafa Menkes, 1969), and the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre at 123 Wynford Drive (Raymond Moriyama and Associates, 1963). The Bata International headquarters at 59 Wynford Drive (John B. Parkin Associates, 1965), a further development of the Imperial Oil concept, has been demolished, as have Oxford University Press at 70 Wynford Drive (Fairfield & Dubois, 1963) and Shell Canada at 75 Wynford Drive (Webb Zerafa Menkes, 1966).

Simpson’s two-in-one tower

Prominently located opposite Old City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square at 401 Bay Street, the 32-storey Simpson Tower, completed in 1969 for the Robert Simpson department store chain, punctuates the northern gateway of the Bay Street skyscraper canyon.

The Simpson Tower was designed by John B. Parkin Associates and Bregman & Hamann in joint venture. One could be forgiven for assuming the building’s bottom third was designed by one firm and the top two-thirds by the other, and that they didn’t compare notes during the process. Lower storeys are glassy and transparent, while the tower section, separated by an inset mechanical floor, appears paradoxically heavy and opaque, largely clad in precast concrete and emphatically terminated by a deep penthouse cap. These disparate elements are barely held together in an oddly compelling visual tension by the prominently extended structural columns. The first three floors are angled back several feet from the Bay/Queen corner, a thoughtful urban gesture that eases pedestrian flow and enhances views of Old City Hall.

Construction of the Simpson Tower completed the Simpson’s complex, begun in 1895 with a six-storey department store at Queen and Yonge and gradually expanded to fill the entire block. As planned, the next phase of development would have enveloped the adjoining store in horizontal bands of bronze-toned metal cladding. Uncertainty about connections to the proposed Eaton Centre delayed construction, however, and as preservationist sentiment grew, Simpson’s instead opted to restore the store’s historic Chicago School and Art Deco facades. In 1978 the Simpson Tower was acquired by the Hudson’s Bay Company as part of its purchase of Simpson’s, and the building has since housed the executive offices of HBC and its subsidiaries.

Welcome to downtown Don Mills

Established in 1952 as a self-contained new town for 32,000 residents, Don Mills was Canada’s first garden city and a model for postwar suburban developments across the country.

Don Mills began with industrialist E.P. Taylor assembling some two thousand acres of farmland seven miles northeast of downtown Toronto. Taylor appointed the young Harvard graduate Macklin Hancock as director of planning, and in creating Don Mills Macklin drew upon Ebenezer Howard’s pioneering Garden City and Clarence Stein and Henry Wright’s Radburn.

In accordance with garden city principles, four neighbourhood quadrants surrounded a town centre of commercial buildings, community facilities and high-density housing, which was bisected by Don Mills Road and Lawrence Avenue and encircled by The Donway ring road. Vehicles were separated from pedestrians: The Donway separated the town centre from the neighbourhood quadrants, pedestrian walkways linked neighbourhoods and the town centre, and vehicular traffic within neighbourhoods was slowed by winding streets, cul-de-sacs and T-junctions. A greenbelt around the community was developed to buffer suburban encroachment, and connected to a system of neighbourhood greenspaces as well as the ravines and valleys of the Don River. Existing trees and natural landscape features were retained wherever possible. The integration of clean industry allowed residents to both live and work in Don Mills, a key differentiator between a garden city and a dormitory suburb.

A consistent Modernist aesthetic was ensured by the Don Mills Development Corporation’s control over architectural design, colours and materials; all houses and buildings in the original development were designed by company-approved Modernist architects such as John B. Parkin Associates, Venchiarutti & Venchiarutti, Henry Fliess, James Murray, Irving Grossman and Michael Bach.

The above postcard, published c. 1968, looks north up Don Mills Road through the town centre (click on image to enlarge). The white igloo-shaped dome (1) is the Don Mills Curling Rink (William S. Hall, 1960; demolished); directly behind it is the Don Mills Civitan Arena (Crang & Boake, 1960). (2) is the Don Mills Convenience Centre (John B. Parkin Associates, 1955; demolished), Don Mills’ central shopping plaza and a silver medal winner in the 1955 Massey Medals for Architecture competition. Just across Lawrence Avenue is the diamond-roofed Don Mills Library (3) (Craig, Madill, Abram & Ingleson, 1961). Forming a dense residential core opposite the commercial and recreational facilities are clusters of mid-rise apartment buildings (4) by various architects. To the east is Don Mills Collegiate (5) (John B. Parkin Associates, 1959), the community’s junior and senior high school. (6) is St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church (John B. Parkin Associates, 1963). An early example of the many well-designed row-housing developments in Don Mills is Greenbelt Heights Village (7) (Belcourt and Blair, 1958). In the bottom right corner is the Ortho Pharmaceuticals office and plant (8) (John B. Parkin Associates, 1955), recipient of a 1958 Massey silver medal and a Canadian prototype for innumerable corporate headquarters. In the distance is Highway 401 and Toronto’s ever-expanding suburban periphery.

Springtime for Simpson’s Yorkdale

Before gaining international renown for Scarborough College, Gund Hall at Harvard University and the iconic CN Tower, John Andrews was a young architect at Toronto’s John B. Parkin Associates. During his tenure at Parkin he designed the Simpson’s department store at Yorkdale Shopping Centre, opened in early 1964 as the largest indoor shopping mall in the world and a landmark in the development of suburban Toronto.

In contrast to the raw concrete and sculptural forms of Andrews’ later Brutalist work, the Simpson’s store shows the influence of New Formalism, a fanciful, decorative neoclassical style popularized in the late 1950s and early 1960s by American architects Edward Durell Stone and Minoru Yamasaki. Accordingly, pairs of arched columns line the perimeter of the building, curving upward into deep parapets that gently flare outward at the top. The precast concrete cladding, when new, was a pristine white and glittered with Georgian quartz aggregate; inset wall panels at the ground level were Simpson’s blue. The building’s careful detailing extended to the undersides of the entrance canopies, which were decorated with candy stripes of glass tiles in brilliant orange shades. Originally opening onto the mall was Simpson’s Court, a high-ceilinged, airy public space with marble and terrazzo floors, a reflecting pool, splashing fountains, tropical plants and a winding helicoidal staircase leading to a restaurant overlooking the court below. Spotlights set into a ceiling of undulating Moorish arches provided a final exotic touch.

Yorkdale aerial + interior

In 1978 the Hudson’s Bay Company acquired Simpson’s, and in 1991 Simpson’s Yorkdale was remodeled as a Bay store after the Simpson’s brand was discontinued. The building’s exterior remains much the same, although the white concrete panels have become badly discoloured. Simpson’s Court has been largely subsumed by rows of cosmetics boutiques.


Born in Australia, John Andrews received an architectural degree from the University of Sydney before entering the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. A submission by him and three Harvard classmates was selected as a finalist in the Toronto City Hall competition, which led to his recruitment by John B. Parkin Associates in 1958. Among the buildings he was responsible for during his three years with Parkin were the Primrose Club (273 St. Clair Avenue West, 1960; demolished), the Federal Equipment plant and offices (88 Ronson Drive, 1960), Bawating Collegiate and Vocational School (750 North Street, Sault Ste. Marie, 1961; demolished) and the control tower at the new Toronto International Airport (1964; demolished). In 1962 Andrews established his own firm and became chairman of the University of Toronto’s school of architecture, a position he held until 1967. His North American work during the 1960s and 1970s includes Scarborough College, the South Residence at the University of Guelph, the Weldon Library at the University of Western Ontario, the proposed Metro Centre redevelopment of the Toronto railway lands, the Miami Seaport Passenger Terminal, Gund Hall for the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University and, probably most famously, Toronto’s CN Tower.

In 1972 Andrews returned to Australia, where his best-known buildings include the King George Tower in Sydney, the Cameron Offices for the Australian federal government in Belconnen, Canberra and convention centres in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide. He retired from full-time practice in the early 1990s with many honours, among them a Massey Medal and an OAA 25-year award for Scarborough College, a Gold Medal from the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and an Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects.

Bookshelf: New Buildings in the Commonwealth

During the 1950s Canadian architecture was largely unknown to the outside world. A handful of Canadian buildings were published in foreign books and periodicals (largely American and British), but the architectural output of the Great White North received little international attention until the mid-1960s completion of Arthur Erickson’s Simon Fraser University, Moshe Safdie’s Habitat and John Andrews’ Scarborough College.

The sole book to reasonably document 1950s Canadian architecture in its time is New Buildings in the Commonwealth, published in 1961 by The Architectural Press in London. Canada accounts for the largest section of the book’s 240 pages, alongside Commonwealth countries Australia, New Zealand, India, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Trinidad and Jamaica. Many of Canada’s best-known buildings of the era are represented, albeit with some notable omissions and questionable inclusions, and more than half of of the 42 Canadian buildings profiled are located in the Toronto area. The prolific John B. Parkin Associates is represented by the OAA headquarters building, Ortho Pharmaceuticals plant and offices, Don Mills Convenience Centre and John C. Parkin’s own Bridle Path residence. Peter Dickinson’s work for Page & Steele includes the Park Plaza Hotel, Workmen’s Compensation Board Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre, Regent Park South towers and the 500 and 561 Avenue Road apartment buildings. Rounding out the Toronto contingent is James Murray’s Anglo Canada Insurance building, Shore and Moffat’s York Township municipal offices, Peter Caspari’s City Park apartments and Irving Grossman’s Betel residence. Ottawa City Hall has an impressive three-page spread, the most allocated to any building, and Stratford’s Festival Theatre, the 1958 Massey Gold Medal winner, is also present. But Hart Massey’s striking steel-framed Ottawa residence is unaccountably missing, along with Peter Dickinson’s One Benvenuto Place apartments and O’Keefe Centre for the Performing Arts.

Outside of Ontario, coverage is disproportionately sparse and somewhat idiosyncratic. Vancouver’s diamond-shaped BC Electric tower, probably Canada’s best tall building of the period, leads off the Canadian section and adorns the book jacket, but the city’s main public library and Burrard Building are mysteriously absent, as are any of the celebrated houses by the likes of Ron Thom and Arthur Erickson. A single church represents the entire province of Quebec, and Saskatchewan and Atlantic Canada are shut out entirely. Edmonton City Hall, the Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, a Calgary apartment complex and a concrete highway bridge give Alberta more than its due, while Manitoba warrants only a library at the University of Manitoba. The university’s elegant J.A. Russell Building for the Faculty of Architecture certainly justified inclusion, at a minimum.

A short essay introduces each country or geographical region. Frederic Lasserre, head of the Department of Architecture at the University of British Columbia, characterizes the development of architecture in Canada as a series of borrowings from other countries and cultures, a stylistic potpourri further exacerbated by widely varying regional interpretations. Perceiving little domestic creativity and lamenting the lack of a unified national style, Lasserre concludes, “A Canadian architecture is unlikely. A Canadian architectural contribution is much more of a possibility.” Plurality quickly trumped purism; within a few years an identifiable Canadian style seemed not only unreachable but beside the point, an irrelevant middle ground between global design trends and regionalized expressions of Canada’s diverse geography, climate and culture.

Parking in a Parkin

Few building types receive less architectural attention than the lowly parking garage. While there are some high-design exceptions—Paul Rudolph’s 1962 Temple Street Parking Garage in New Haven, Connecticut and Herzog & de Meuron’s recent 1111 Lincoln Road garage in Miami Beach are two—the vast majority of garages are at best anonymous and utilitarian.

Toronto’s first attempt at parking with style was a pair of garages at 29 Temperance Street and Dundas Square, designed by John B. Parkin Associates for the Parking Authority of Toronto and opened in 1957. To maximize car capacity on the constricted sites, the garages featured then-novel mechanical parking systems. Rather than circling around a series of ramps, drivers simply entered the garage, stopped on a hydraulic elevator platform and exited their vehicles. An attendant then raised the car to its allotted bay and slipped it into place. The clean, rectilinear lines of the Parkin garages belied the tailfinned automobiles housed within: black steel railings and window frames crisply contrasted with the pristine white concrete structures, the solids and voids creating a dynamic three-dimensional effect of advancing and receding planes. The Dundas Square garage received an honourable mention in the 1958 Massey Medals for Architecture competition and both were published in the 1961 book New Buildings in The Commonwealth.

Unfortunately, despite their Tomorrowland promise, the garages were operational disasters. The lifts were unable to keep pace with the volumes of cars during the morning and evening rush hours, causing lengthy backups, and the salty slush and freezing temperatures of Toronto winters led to premature wear and chronic breakdowns of the mechanical and hydraulic systems. Both garages were demolished in the mid-1960s after less than a decade of service.

Although common in Europe for decades, mechanical and automated parking systems have been rare in North America. But they are increasingly finding favour for condominium buildings in Toronto as well as New York, Chicago and other space-challenged cities, suggesting that pushbutton parking may be coming soon to a garage near you—if it hasn’t already.

Bookshelf: Canadian Architecture 1960/70

Most Canadian cultural historians view the 1960s as the decade when Canada came of age as a vital, dynamic, forward-looking nation. In addition to the broader social and technological changes occurring throughout the Western world, Canada’s icons of the era—Expo 67, the maple leaf flag, Marshall McLuhan, Pierre Trudeau—symbolized a country transcending its largely conservative, colonial past for a shiny new future where almost anything seemed possible.

The 1960s were a similarly transformational time for building in Canada, as architects synthesized global design influences with local geography, climate and culture to create a fresh and dynamic Canadian architecture. This pivotal period is captured in the 1971 book Canadian Architecture 1960/70, written and photographed by Carol Moore Ede, then a young CBC television producer, director and writer. The sizable 264-page hardcover documents 24 Canadian-designed buildings from Vancouver to Charlottetown and profiles their respective architects.

When preparing a survey of the immediate past, the challenge is selecting the subjects: what will stand the test of time and what will soon be dismissed as a regrettable diversion? Forty years after the publication of Canadian Architecture 1960/70, it’s remarkable how closely Moore Ede’s choice of buildings parallels what is regarded today as the canon of Canadian architecture in the Sixties: Arthur Erickson’s Simon Fraser University, Smith Residence and MacMillan Bloedel Building; Ron Thom’s Massey College, Trent University and Fraser Residence; Moshe Safdie’s Habitat; Douglas Cardinal’s St. Mary’s Church; John Andrews’ Scarborough College; Raymond Moriyama’s Japanese-Canadian Cultural Centre; Étienne Gaboury’s Church of the Precious Blood; Clifford Wiens’s Lady of the Lake Chapel and University of Regina heating and cooling plant; Affleck, Desbarats, Dimakopoulos, Lebensold and Sise’s Place Bonaventure and Confederation Centre of the Arts; and others. Two arguable omissions of note are John B. Parkin Associates’ Ottawa Station and Macy DuBois’s Central Technical School Art Centre. A clean, crisp design by Burton Kramer Associates, complete with reproductions of the original architectural drawings, makes the book an attractive object itself, although the photographic quality is somewhat compromised by the low-gloss paper stock.

Pushed aside by Post-Modernism in the 1980s and early 90s, Canada’s Modernist architecture has since been embraced not only as a cultural legacy, but also as an inspiration for subsequent generations of architects. Canadian Architecture 1960/70 is a key document of the nation’s architectural past and is still a worthy point of departure for its architectural future.

Aeroquay One, Toronto International Airport

Completed in 1964, the new Toronto International Airport was the city’s sleek, silvery entry into the Jet Age. The postcard above, a rendering by architects John B. Parkin Associates, depicts the only completed Aeroquay terminal building of the projected four.

The innovative planning of the Aeroquay drew immediate international attention. A glass-walled perimeter ring housing passenger concourses and departure lounges encircled a central core with a  2400-car parking garage, ticket counters and passenger processing facilities. Compared to the typically long, linear terminals of the period, the Aeroquay’s novel and compact ring-and-core configuration minimized distances between automobiles and airplanes and improved other key efficiencies.

Also notable was the Toronto airport’s visual integration. Parkin was responsible for the overall master plan and all structures, and so the control tower, power plant, administration building, postal station and automobile service station were cohesively designed in a consistent palette of concrete, glass, and stainless steel. Advertising signage and other commercial distractions were kept to an absolute minimum.

As at other Canadian airports commissioned during the late 1950s and 60s, the federal Department of Transportation championed the expression of a national cultural identity by showcasing the work of Canadian designers and artists. Toronto’s furnishings were designed by Robin Bush, Stefan Siwinski and Court Noxon, while typography and signage were by Allan Fleming and John Gallop. Artists Harold Town, Kazuo Nakamura, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Graham Coughtry, Jean McEwan and others contributed murals and sculptures. Even the airport’s utilities were celebrated: electrical and mechanical equipment was painted warm shades of orange and yellow or cool blues and greens, depending on function, and displayed inside a Miesian glass box between the entrance and exit parkways.

Today, little of the above exists. The postal station and automotive service station were removed in the early 1970s and all remaining buildings, including the Aeroquay itself, were demolished between 1997 and 2004 as part of the airport’s long-term redevelopment. Artworks have fared better; several have been refurbished and reinstalled in and around the new Terminal 1. While the Aeroquay concept was a breakthrough in the early 1960s, it was soon made obsolete by the exponential growth of passenger volumes and by the considerable increase in the size of commercial aircraft. Designed in the days of limited air travel and 100- to 200-seat transcontinental planes, the Aeroquay could not efficiently accommodate wide-body giants such as the 500-passenger Boeing 747. And expansion by building additional Aeroquays soon proved financially and operationally impractical.

Below is a postcard published shortly after the airport’s completion; note the absence of jet bridges, the open observation deck below the stylish Aeroquay restaurant and the clusters of plane-watchers atop the parking garage. On the tarmac are a Vickers Viscount and a pair of Vickers Vanguard propliners in Trans-Canada Airlines livery (renamed Air Canada in 1965). In the foreground, representing the next generation of air travel, is a BOAC Boeing 707 jetliner. The image at bottom, taken from the roof of the administration building, captures the glamour of airport lights in the rainy night and planes waiting to whisk passengers to destinations unknown.

A hilltop fortress for IBM

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.

IMG_9909 IBM HQ V3

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.


IMG_9994 IBM HQ V1

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