Posts Tagged 'Massey Medals'

Mimico Centennial Library


With the Canadian Centennial approaching in 1967, the Government of Canada launched an ambitious program to build national identity and enrich public life through new facilities for the arts, culture, recreation and education. Led by the federal Centennial Commission, in collaboration with provincial and municipal governments, the resulting Centennial projects ranged from large-scale institutions such as the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown and the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto to literally hundreds of libraries, recreation centres and performing-arts venues in communities across the country.

Taking advantage of this funding largesse, the Town of Mimico (soon to be amalgamated into the Borough of Etobicoke) opted to commission a new central library to replace their aging 1915 Carnegie building. The Mimico Centennial Library, opened in late 1966 at 47 Station Road, earned architects Banz, Brook, Carruthers, Grierson, Shaw a coveted Massey Medal for Architecture in 1967.

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Set into a compact, sloping site, the Mimico library takes on an irregular L shape, wrapped around a charmingly cobblestoned garden court by landscape architect Michael Hough and a butterfly fountain sculpture by Ron Baird. The sculptural plasticity of Brutalism is evident in the building’s angular, abstract shapes and free-form projections, but the style’s sometimes overbearing effect is tempered by its realization in a refined red-orange brick rather than raw concrete. A roof of greenish weathered copper attractively caps the composition. The lush, mature landscaping and the deft handling of scale, mass and siting further help to integrate the library into its otherwise unassuming residential neighbourhood.

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Inside, a central checkout desk divides the children’s wing from the main library. The children’s wing overlooks the entrance garden court through a floor-to-ceiling glass box, which extends from the building to form a daydreamy reading nook and observation post. The main library area is on two levels, with bookstacks tucked underneath an open mezzanine level above. Open and airy, the space is daylit from all sides by strategically-placed slit windows; natural cedar ceilings contrast the smooth white plaster walls and the elegant roof structure of black steel. The main floor extends into a second projecting volume, also overlooking the entrance garden, that houses a reading lounge convivially arranged around a large circular coffee table. On the lowest level is a 240-seat sloped-floor auditorium for public events and performances.

Toronto-based Banz, Brook, Carruthers, Grierson, Shaw (and its various iterations) was for many years a specialist in public libraries and other community facilities. The Mimico library can be considered a stylistic midway point in the firm’s evolution from the simple c.1960 brick-and-glass pavilions for the Richmond Hill and Port Credit libraries toward the larger, more complex and more uncompromisingly Brutalist 1970s Burlington Public Library and North York Fairview Branch Library. The firm continues today as CS&P Architects.

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Lessons learned from Peter Dickinson’s Toronto Teachers’ College

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In a city where important Modernist buildings are often relegated to landfill or altered beyond recognition, Centennial College deserves kudos for its stewardship of the former Toronto Teachers’ College building. Currently the Story Arts Centre, home to the college’s School of Communications, Media and Design, this Peter Dickinson-designed 1954 gem at 951 Carlaw Avenue received a Massey Medal for Architecture and is one of the architect’s most lyrical and engaging works.

Centennial’s involvement with the Teachers’ College building began with its purchase in 1978. Following another decade of use as general-purpose classroom facilities, the building underwent an extensive renovation led by architect Alar Kongats and reopened in 1994 as the Bell Centre for Creative Communications.

Kongats had an inspired canvas to work with. Unlike the maze of windowless hallways typical of education buildings, Dickinson planned the Teachers’ College around a private landscaped courtyard, an expanse of lawns, trees and limestone terraces enclosed by glass curtainwalls in a colourful checkerboard pattern of turquoise blue and lime green. The building’s main corridors overlook the courtyard on all sides, assisting visual orientation and providing continuous views of the greenery within. A rectangular reflecting pool is the courtyard focal point, floodlit at night and featuring Dickinson’s own whimsical hoops-and-balls sculpture.

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On the public facades, Dickinson deftly scaled the building’s long, low exteriors to its residential neighbourhood, punctuating the horizontal curtainwall bands with broad planes of coloured brick and a swoopy cantilevered canopy over the main entrance. Inside, past the low-ceilinged entrance vestibule, the space abruptly expands upward into an airy, double-height lobby that looks directly into the courtyard through a gently curving grid of transparent glass and opaque panels. A freestanding ramp zigzags up to the second level, animated by a steady flow of students and staff.

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Kongats’s renovation introduced a series of angular Deconstructivist insertions, most notably the aluminum and glass shard (housing the library) that projects outward from the west façade and continues into the courtyard. Original details were carefully preserved and building systems updated with minimal impact upon the historical fabric: the aging curtainwall was overlaid with a new high-performance system that matched the original colours and proportions, while the slender steel structural columns lining the lobby and corridors avoided encasement in fireproofing materials thanks to individual deluge sprinklers. New radio and television studios and multimedia production facilities, much of which required isolation from noise and vibration, were neatly integrated into the former gymnasium. Subsequent alterations by Kongats have faithfully maintained the building’s spirit and integrity, a credit to the skill and sensitivity of the architect and the ongoing stewardship of Centennial College.

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Massey Medals for Architecture 1950-1970

The Massey Medals for Architecture program was established in 1950 to promote and recognize excellence in Canadian architecture, and to increase public awareness of architecture as an expression of Canadian cultural life. Initiated by Vincent Massey, scion of one of Canada’s most distinguished and wealthy families and the Governor General of Canada from 1952 to 1959, the Massey competitions were held every three years from 1952 through 1970 in association with the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. Juries included Canadian and international luminaries such as Pietro Belluschi, William Wurster, Sir Hugh Casson, Eric Arthur and Peter Blake.

The format of the Massey Medals evolved over the years, with varying categories and numbers of medals awarded. The Gold Medal was initially the highest accolade, representing “the most significant contribution to Canadian architecture in the three-year period prior to the award.” A Silver Medal was presented to the winner of each building type category, and other entrants deemed to be of merit earned mention as finalists. Building type categories were eliminated following the 1958 competition, and after 1961 the Gold Medal was dropped and all medals were awarded on equal standing.

The inaugural Massey Medals for Architecture competition, held in 1950, was somewhat of a false start. Only 22 architects participated, no awards were made in several categories, and a single firm, Toronto’s John B. Parkin Associates, received five of the nine medals awarded, including the overall Gold Medal. In 1952, though, the program began to flourish: the number of submissions increased dramatically and the Gold Medal winner, the Marwell Building by the Vancouver firm Semmens & Simpson, was unanimously praised as an exceptional example of Canadian architecture. Four of the eight Silver Medals were awarded to other British Columbia entries, acknowledging the emergence of the province (and particularly Vancouver) as a centre of creative and dynamic architecture.

Subsequent Massey competitions were ever more popular, peaking in 1964 and 1967 with 424 entries each. While British Columbia architects consistently earned accolades for single-family residences, Toronto firms received awards primarily for corporate and institutional buildings and multi-unit housing. Toronto-area medal winners regarded as enduring landmarks in Canadian architecture include the Ontario Association of Architects building and the Ortho Pharmaceutical offices and plant by John B. Parkin Associates; the Garden Court Apartments and the Regent Park South high-rise towers by Page & Steele; Central Technical School Art Centre by Fairfield & DuBois; and Scarborough College by John Andrews Architect (with Page & Steele), one of the few Canadian buildings of the era to gain international renown.

Despite the Massey program’s apparent success, criticism was growing over what was increasingly perceived as arbitrary and uninspired medal selections. This discontent culminated in outrage at the results of the 1970 competition. The managing editor of The Canadian Architect wrote a scathing four-page editorial arguing that while some of the medals were well-deserved, the seemingly inexplicable rejection of several extremely accomplished buildings had greatly diminished the program’s esteem and value, and that the lost credibility could only be restored by fundamental changes to the awards criteria and judging process. The magazine even included a tear-out page for readers to forward their presumably indignant comments to the Massey organizers.

This backlash seemed to kill any remaining enthusiasm for the program; 1970 became the final edition of the Massey Medals for Architecture. It was eventually superseded in 1982 by the Governor-General’s Awards for Architecture, which continues today as Canada’s principal architectural awards program.

Listed below are the Massey Medal recipients in the Toronto area. Unfortunately, despite their award-winning status, several have been demolished and many others extensively altered. Building names are as they were at the time of the award; addresses are current.

Canadian National Exhibition Grandstand
, Marani & Morris (Silver Medal, demolished)
Central Christadelphian Church, 728 Church Street, John B. Parkin Associates (Silver Medal)
Fabergé Perfumes Canada Ltd., 30 Queen Elizabeth Boulevard, John B. Parkin Associates (Silver Medal)
Garden Court Apartments, 1477 Bayview Avenue, Page & Steele (Silver Medal)
Humber Memorial Hospital, 200 Church Street, John B. Parkin Associates (Silver Medal)
York Township Hydroelectric System, 15 Rotherham Avenue, John B. Parkin Associates (Silver Medal)

Apartment Building,
130 Old Forest Hill Road, Gordon S. Adamson Associates (Silver Medal)
York Township Municipal Offices, 2700 Eglinton Avenue West, Shore & Moffat (Silver Medal)

Don Mills Convenience Centre
, Don Mills Road and Lawrence Avenue, John B. Parkin Associates (Silver Medal, demolished)
Ontario Association of Architects Building, 50 Park Road, John B. Parkin Associates (Silver Medal)
Seaway Hotel, 2000 Lake Shore Boulevard West, Elken & Becksted (Silver Medal, demolished)
Simpson-Sears Industrial Development, 2200 Islington Avenue, John B. Parkin Associates (Silver Medal)
Toronto Teachers’ College, 951 Carlaw Avenue, Page & Steele (Silver Medal)

Ortho Pharmaceutical Canada
, 19 Greenbelt Drive, John B. Parkin Associates (Silver Medal)
South Hill Village, Barber Greene Road, James A. Murray & Henry Fleiss (Silver Medal)
Workmen’s Compensation Board Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre, 115 Torbarrie Road, Page & Steele (Silver Medal, demolished)

Kipling Collegiate Institute
, 380 Westway, Gordon S. Adamson & Associates (Silver Medal)
Private Golf Course (for George Crothers, 24 Valleyanna Drive), Raymond Moriyama & Associates (Silver Medal)
Regent Park South residential towers, Belshaw Place and Blevins Place, Page & Steele (Silver Medal, all five towers demolished)

Central Technical School Art Centre
, 725 Bathurst Street, Fairfield & DuBois (Medal)
Control Tower, Lester B. Pearson International Airport, John B. Parkin Associates (Medal, demolished)
Don Valley Woods Phase 1, Valley Woods Road, Jack Klein and Henry Sears (Medal)
Imperial Oil Ontario Regional Headquarters, 825 Don Mills Road, John B. Parkin Associates (Medal, demolished)
Lothian Mews, 96 Bloor Street West, Webb Zerafa Menkes (Medal, demolished)

Automotive Service Centre
, Lester B. Pearson International Airport, John B. Parkin Associates (Medal, demolished)
Ceterg Office Building, 2 Duncan Mill Road, Fairfield & DuBois (Medal)
Don Valley Woods Phase 2, Valley Woods Road, Klein and Sears (Medal)
Etobicoke Public Library, Richview Branch, 1806 Islington Avenue, Dunlop, Wardell, Matsui, Aitken (Medal)
Mimico Centennial Library, 47 Station Road, Banz, Brook, Carruthers, Grierson, Shaw (Medal)
Scarborough College, 1265 Military Trail, John Andrews Architect and Page & Steele (Medal)

No medals were awarded to Toronto-area entries.

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