Posts Tagged 'Peter Pennington'

A reprieve for Davisville Public School?

Robert Moffatt-TDSB Davisville PS 1-2016-Robert Moffatt

Opened in 1962 at 43 Millwood Road, the Davisville Public School and Metro Toronto School for the Deaf is one of the many innovative school buildings designed by the Toronto Board of Education during the 1950s and early 1960s. Frederick Etherington, the board’s chief architect, and primary design architect Peter Pennington led in-house teams of architects and engineers in addition to overseeing schools commissioned from major Toronto architecture firms.

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Davisville was designed to enrich the daily experiences of its young charges, introducing surprise and delight into a relatively straightforward building program. The school is divided into four modules of three storeys each, as opposed to the typically long, linear designs of the day, which helps to visually break up the building mass into more child-size pieces. The lower two-storey module at the west end encloses protected indoor-outdoor play areas; the easternmost module is a later addition. Roofs are exotic hyperbolic paraboloids, their animated forms held aloft at each corner by concrete columns that neatly taper inward toward the ground. Staircases separate each module, aiding vertical circulation, and provide treetop views of the outdoors through walls of transparent glass. Windows on the upper floors march across the facades in a jazzy syncopated rhythm of alternating verticals and horizontals.

Welcoming students is the entrance module with its deep, sheltering canopy and a dramatically upward-flaring paraboloid roof, an inversion of those atop the other modules. The limestone walls flanking the entrance pass through a glazed wall into the lobby, the smooth and transparent glass intriguingly contrasting the roughly textured stone. Inside, the lobby is outfitted with colourful terrazzo floors and sleek fittings of stainless steel and black walnut.

Throughout the building, thoughtful design, high-quality materials and fine workmanship demonstrate the importance assigned to public education during the postwar period and its key role in developing citizens of a democratic civil society.

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Despite these virtues, the Davisville school is currently under threat of demolition in favour of a new school building and an adjoining community hub with a swimming pool, underground parking and other amenities. With a minimum of ingenuity, however, these elements can be readily arranged on the site without demolishing the existing school building. The school can be renovated and repurposed as the community centre, perhaps with space leased to arts groups, small independent schools or other community organizations; the building’s modular design lends itself to additions and internal subdivisions. And even if heritage value is discounted, the Davisville school building is a useful physical asset for the board and the community. Why not keep it and creatively leverage its potential?

Robert Moffatt-TDSB Davisville PS 4-2016-Robert Moffatt

A circular school for a Brave New World

Located on the curve of Spadina Crescent at 33 Robert Street, Lord Lansdowne Public School opened in 1961 amid a massive building program to accommodate Toronto’s growing hordes of Baby Boom children.

Lord Lansdowne exemplifies a particularly English strain of Modernism first popularized at the landmark 1951 Festival of Britain. The Festival’s slightly fussy yet cheerfully exuberant buildings, with their bright colours, varied materials and animated forms, were fresh and optimistic and promised a brave new world ahead for a country finally emerging from years of war and austerity.

The school’s festive inspiration is most evident in the main classroom building. A nine-sided circular pavilion, its serrated roof of folded concrete plates is ringed by 18 tapered steel pylons radiating outward from a central core. Similar folded-plate roofs atop the rectangular gymnasium wing and the main entrance help to unify the three-part composition, as do the miniature pylons supporting the entrance canopy. Walls of black, brown and tan brick are enlivened by sharp white trim and spandrel panels of lemon yellow, marine blue and a rich orangey red. A final architectural whimsy is the freestanding exhaust stack, wrapped in multicoloured stripes like a giant candycane. The black Gabbro boulder guarding the Spadina corner was deposited on the site by a glacier some 12,000 years ago before being unearthed during excavation.

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Lord Lansdowne was an in-house project by what was then the Toronto Board of Education: Peter Pennington was the design architect, overseen by the board’s chief architect Frederick Etherington. As well as commissioning numerous schools from leading Toronto architectural firms, the Board of Education team designed many inventive examples themselves during the 1950s and early 60s. Other notable in-house designs include the combined Davisville Public School and Metropolitan Toronto School for the Deaf at 43 Millwood Road, an extension to Williamson Road Junior and Senior School at 24 Williamson Road, and the Winchester Junior and Senior Public School at 15 Prospect Street. The Board’s former headquarters at 155 College Street, completed in 1961 to designs by Page & Steele, features exemplary materials and craftsmanship.

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