Toronto, a city of diverse architectural styles that has progressed immensely over the years. There are a lot of famous landmarks and buildings in Toronto, which are known all over the world for their blend of different architectures.
One such masterpiece creation is the Toronto City Hall which was established in 1965, and it has completely changed the face of the city by bringing a wave of modern architecture.
Let’s rewind to where it all started and how Toronto City Hall became one of the city’s most famous and innovative creations. By the end of the article, I’m sure you will know a lot more about the two city halls’ significance and the history of the 2 city halls.
The Old Toronto city hall:
So it all began in the year 1899 when the old Toronto City Hall was where the municipal government and its members used to reside and operate.
It was a Romanesque revival architectural style building built by architect Edward James Lennox and situated across the bay street from Nathan Phillips square. The city hall is considered one of the best examples of romanesque architecture and has a great heritage value.
Its design was inspired by the American architect H.H Richardson’s Romanesque style. The old city hall has the clock tower, which is a little off-center and 340 ft long, and for 18 years was known as Canada’s tallest structure.
First, let’s know a bit about what a city hall is? What is its primary purpose? And why its an essential part of the city?
A city hall is an administrative building or a corporate head office of the city or town government.
Every city hall, may it be in any city, has the same purpose. It is a base from where the municipal government functions and its hall is where the critical council meetings and events occur. It’s a place where the council members and mayor work together to provide support and a wide range of services to the citizens of Toronto.
As the city hall fell short of space, land for the new administrative building was needed to house the city’s officialdom and to operate the big city of Toronto. Even after the modern new Toronto city hall came into the picture, the old city hall is still one of the city’s most remarkable structures.
Today the old city hall has become the Ontario government’s courthouse. The old city hall holds a lot of significance to Toronto as it was designated as a heritage under the Ontario heritage act and is also recognized internationally.
History of the New City Hall:
The Toronto city needed a more modern look for the new city hall, and in the year 1954, three of the biggest firms of Toronto, i.e., Mathers & Haldenby, Marani & Morris, and Shore & Moffat, all came together to make a design for the city hall.
Later, when it was presented in 1955, the voters rejected the proposal, and it was scrapped as the design was termed as cliche modern design by many leading architects. Soon they decided to call for an international architectural competition for the public square and new city hall across the bay street.
The unique modern architectural design of the new city hall of Toronto was chosen in the international architectural competition. There were 500 competitors from over 42 countries competing against each other for the unique design of the city hall.
The entries in the international competition presented several new ideas from various architects about modernism and modern architecture. The rules and regulations of the competition were that the architect who is not a member of the Ontario association has to join the local firm of Toronto.
Five architects who chose the best design from among the 500 submissions judged the international design competition. Viljo Revell’s design won the city hall project out of all the entries. Toronto’s new city hall project was handed over to Viljo Revel of Finland.
In 1958, Viljo Revell and John B. Parkin (Associate of Toronto) became partners in designing the new city hall. The inauguration ceremony of the hall was on 13th September 1965. The new city hall was celebrated for about a week by the citizens of Toronto. The new location of the city hall is at 100 queen street west, adjacent to Nathan Phillips square (which is named after mayor Nathan Phillips).
The construction began in 1961, and the Toronto city hall started in the year 1965 September. The new modern city hall replaced the old one, although the plans for the old city hall were to demolish it and make a retail complex and skyscrapers, the plan was abandoned because of the public outcry.
The architecture of Toronto’s New City Hall:
Sadly, architect Viljo Revel wasn’t alive to see the opening of his modernistic architectural city hall building. But even after decades, he is still remembered for his iconic architectural design internationally.
The city hall was built on 12 acres of land, and its structure has 4 elements. The first one is the circular council chamber, which is at the center of the structure surrounded partly by the two towers and where all the council meetings occur. It has 2 elevators which take to the ground floor and the parking garage.
The impressive curved towers are accommodated to civil servants. The west tower is called the Osgoode hall, with the old city hall is located at the east tower and Nathan Philips square at the front.
The third element is the civic square, and its 3/4th part is an open space as it’s a grand gesture to mayor Nathan Philips square, who devoted his life to the Toronto city hall project.
The Nathan Phillips square holds a wide variety of activities and events. Various festivals and events are celebrated with a great spirit, and it is free for the public as non-profit organizations organize it. The Nathan Phillips square has 4 major attractions: a peace garden, a sculpture court, a theatre stage, and a skating rink.
The location of the peace garden is on the west landscape area, and it’s set in the middle of planting areas filled with various flowers & plants.
There is also a bronze sculpture of the memorial of Winston Churchill, which is 3 metres high. It was sculpted by Oscar Nemon and is located in the British house of commons.
The permanent theatre stage acts as a landscape element, and also it joins the circular council chamber, arches of Nathan Phillip squares, and ceremonial ramp.
The skating pavilions consist of public washrooms, skating rink facilities, skate rental space, changing rooms, food concessions, roof terrace, and a wide square view.
At the north of Osgoode hall, there was a university avenue bought by the government of Canada for the civic square project.
The last element is the two-story podium, whose first floor is a public space, and the second floor is the governmental offices.
For development, the Toronto council acquired the south side of queen street, opposite city hall. The south side was empty at the hall’s opening, but soon a hotel was opened over there.
The Toronto city council:
It carries out of the responsibility of the city. It consists of 26 members, 25 are councilors, and one is the mayor. The meetings happen on the fourth Tuesday of every month.
The council chamber consists of 2 sections. The councilors sit in a semi-circle surrounding the middle in 3 rows, and the mayor sits at the center, and his chair is placed below the logo of Toronto. The outer semi-circle is where the public and media sit.
Currently, john Torrey is the mayor of the Toronto city hall. He represents Toronto across Canada and internationally. the new city hall councilors must set its new policies and execute them.
Over the years, Toronto has gone through a progressive change, and it has created some of the most amazing architectural sites and landmarks. We have got to see the city hall landmark in various movies like the Expanse, the Sentinel, the Handmaid’s Tale. The creation of the Toronto City Hall has inspired a lot of architects and young minds and has opened doors for new opportunities for innovation.
The old hall has brought a significant heritage value to the city, and the new hall has modernized the city through its architecture. The significance of both the halls holds a great deal in the country and all over the world.
I hope through this blog you got to know everything about the history & significance of Toronto city hall and how it’s an integral part of the city.