Royal Architectural Institute of Canada

Prix du XXe siècle — 2014 Recipient

Toronto City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square (1965)

Viljo Revell and John. B. Parkin Associates
(now NORR Limited Architects Engineers Planners) 

Award Category: 
Prix du XXe siècle

At a time when the Mayor of Toronto is a figure of global ridicule, it is refreshing to look back to when his predecessor Mayor Nathan Phillips supported an international competition for a new city hall that put Toronto and Canada at the center of global architectural interest.

The 1958 competition attracted 520 entries from 44 countries and was won by a team led by the Finnish architect Viljo Revel. He affiliated with John B. Parkin Associates and the building was completed by 1965.

The modern sculptural design features two curving office administration towers of unequal height which partially surround the central council chambers in the form of a domed saucer. These elements rise out of a 2 story podium block which faces onto a large civic square to the south. The square is an integral part of the design composition, a modern piazza defined by a surrounding raised walkway. The plaza contains a reflective pool/ ice rink spanned by three concrete arches; a sloping ramp that rises to the roof of the podium; as well as a large central
hardscape plaza that provides a venue for major public events. It was a forward looking vision that spoke to the city that Toronto would become and was a powerful symbol of democratic municipal governance.

As we approach the 50th anniversary of its opening the city hall remains a landmark and internationally recognized symbol of modern Toronto.

Jury Comment(s): 

"Toronto City Hall and its civic square are an iconic work of Canadian modern architecture. Together the highly symbolic yet functional building complex, and the eminently public space, provide an important centre to the downtown. The result of a critical international competition, which introduced the influence of the Finnish architect Revell to Canada at a key moment in the city’s development, it is perhaps the most enduring Canadian example of the 20th century municipal public space and building. It has continued to serve its original purpose, and is well loved by the community it serves. Its generous public spaces, lyrical forms, dignified materials and refined details serve as a constant reminder to citizens of the value of greater civic vision. Recent rehabilitation work has generally embodied the spirit of stewardship required to maintain our significant public heritage."

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Photo: Applied Photography Ltd

Photo: Vahagn Stepanian / NORR Limited

Photo: City of Toronto Archives

Photo: City of Toronto Archives

Photo: Panda Associates Photography