Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Making Toronto Modern: Architecture and Design, 1895-1975

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Making Toronto Modern: Architecture and Design, 1895-1975

Article excerpt

Christopher Armstrong, Making Toronto Modern: Architecture and Design, 1895-1975 (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2014), 448 pp. 280 photos. Cased. £40. ISBN 978-0-7735-4349-2.

Toronto is having its moment in the spotlight. Lauded as a top ten international city by publications as diverse as Forbes, Fast Company, Foreign Policy, the New York Times, and The Economist; even the BBC is asking 'When did Toronto become so cool?' Given all this attention, a book that sets out to explore Toronto's architectural legacy could not be more timely.

It was with great excitement that I agreed to review Making Toronto Modern. My father was an architect who had studied art and design in Germany and as a refugee chose Toronto to establish his practice. My sisters and I grew up touring buildings, discussing streetscapes, and listening to laments about Toronto's serious lack of historic modern buildings. While the Bauhaus was busy at work, Toronto had been building and rebuilding architectural styles from the previous century.

Armstrong argues that the creation of the modern in Toronto was a protracted and hard-fought campaign. He divides the book into seven chapters, each focusing on a span of 10 to 15 years. Starting with the early city reformers and the City Beautiful Movement, Armstrong shows that Toronto didn't really embrace the modern until the 1950s. In this period of postwar growth and affluence, both developers and consumers desired new forms and new expressions. Confining his focus to only buildings which were 'actually proposed and constructed' (p. 50), he does an excellent job of profiling major public and private commercial and industrial buildings and residential and mixed-use architectural developments. …

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