Toronto City Hall: Wikis


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Toronto City Hall
Architectural style modernist
Location Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Owner City of Toronto
Started 1961
Completed 1965
Design team
Architect Viljo Revell
Structural engineer Hannskarl Bandel
Awards and prizes OHA designated (1991)
Renovating team
Architect Bruce Kuwabara

The City Hall of Toronto, Ontario, Canada is one of the most distinctive landmarks of the city. Designed by Finnish architect Viljo Revell (with Heikki Castrén, Bengt Lundsten, Seppo Valjus), landscape architect Richard Strong, and engineered by Hannskarl Bandel, the building opened in 1965; its modernist architecture still impresses today. It was built to replace Old City Hall, which was built in 1899.



Site of the future City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square in 1918.

The building is on a large site on the north side of Queen Street West between Bay Street and Osgoode Hall. The address is 100 Queen Street West, and its postal code is M5H 2N2. It is on the site of the Ward, which was a major immigrant reception area during the first half of the twentieth century, characterized by its slums, as well as Toronto's first Chinatown after the Second World War. The population of the large area was displaced, mostly to the northwest of the site. Much of the Chinese population residing in the district had to be relocated before construction of the new City Hall could begin.

A few streets were cut off, namely Elizabeth and Chestnut Streets at Queen Street.

Design competition

Toronto had been looking to build a more modern city hall for several years. In 1954, a partnership of three of Toronto's largest architectural firms was selected to do the design. The result, presented in November 1955, was an extremely conservative structure that was called "sterile" by Frank Lloyd Wright and "very poor" by Walter Gropius. It died when voters rejected plans for a new $18 million city hall in a December 1955 referendum. (The design was adapted and built as the Imperial Oil Building elsewhere.) Led by Mayor Nathan Phillips, Toronto city council decided in 1956 to have an international competition to choose the new design under terms drawn up by the International Union of Architects. This caused some controversy as some felt the work should be done by a Canadian. A five-person panel of judges was drawn up with some of the world's greatest architecture experts. Eric Arthur served as advisor. Over 500 designs were submitted, from which eight semi-finalists were selected. In September 1958, Revell's design was selected by three of the judges, including Eero Saarinen. One of the two dissenting judges was William Graham Holford, who was skeptical that the design could be built within the $18 million budget set by the city. Revell received a $25,000 prize plus what was estimated to be $1 million in fees to supervise construction. He complained that not enough credit was given to his design collaborators, Heikki Castren, Bengt Lundsten, and Seppo Valjus, and asked that all names be listed as the architects. Construction began in 1961 and the building was completed four years later. Revell died in 1964 before the project was finished.


Toronto City Hall at night

While the building's base is rectangular, its two towers are curved in cross-section and rise to differing heights. The east tower is 27 storeys (99.5 metres) tall and the west tower is 20 storeys (79.4 metres). Between the towers is the saucer-like council chamber, and the overall arrangement is somewhat like two hands cradling the chamber. The outer concrete surfaces of the towers have been ribbed, to prevent collapse of the fabric as a result of the expansion of the exterior surfaces, and the tearing apart of the fabric as a result of differences in air pressure on the two sides of each wing-like tower during the high winds characteristic of the Great Lakes. The north, west, and east elevations are plain in contrast with the south elevation; each presents a view of unrelieved concrete. To the east of the square is the former City Hall (locally known as Old City Hall) which is now a courthouse.

From the air, the building is seen as a giant unblinking eye, thus the building's original nickname of "The Eye of Government".

When finished, the building caused a storm of controversy among many people, who felt that it was extremely futuristic, too futuristic for the city. Even 40 years later, it still appears very modern.

In front of the main structure is Nathan Phillips Square, a public space containing a fountain/skating rink.

Statues and monuments

Henry Moore's Archer


City Hall has changed over the last four decades:

  • Minor upgrades by Toronto architect Bruce Kuwabara to connect the two towers and upgrade council chambers in 1997-1998
  • Observation deck closed
  • Peace Garden added
  • Gift shop closed
  • City Hall library reduced in size
  • Ice rink is still used for skating during winter, but people cannot use pool/fountain area to wade in during summer

City Hall was designated as a property of historical and architectural significance under the Ontario Heritage Act in 1991. In 2005 the building celebrated its 40th birthday and plans are underway to re-design Nathan Phillips Square.

In popular culture

In the 1980 film The Kidnapping of the President starring William Shatner and Hal Holbrook the city hall and Nathan Phillips Square provided the location for a protracted hostage scene. The city hall was seen in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Contagion" as one of the possible destinations of an alien portal. In the 2002 film The Tuxedo, the city hall was playing the role of "CSA Headquarters". In the 2004 film Resident Evil: Apocalypse, the building portrayed the City Hall in Raccoon City. It was destroyed by a neutron bomb blowing up over the building. In the 2006 film The Sentinel, an assassination attempt takes place at a Group of Eight summit meeting in Toronto's city hall. In the 2007 novel "Consolation" by Michael Redhill, Toronto's City Hall is described as an ice cream cone with a tumor in between. The Devon Corporation headquarters in the popular Pokémon anime franchise bears a striking resemblance to Toronto's city Hall.


City hall is one of the main host of different festivals and events in Toronto. Great new year celebration is held there every year including fireworks, sparkling & singing of different music bands. One of the other major festivals at Toronto city hall is the annual Cavalcade of Lights sets which is held from ends of November until end of December.

Various locations inside the building are accessible to the public during Doors Open Toronto; council chambers, the Mayor's office, and 27th floor were included in 2009.

360 degree panorama of the lobby, during Doors Open 2009.

See also

External links

Preceded by
Old City Hall (Toronto)
City of Toronto
Succeeded by

Coordinates: 43°39′11.93″N 79°23′02.44″W / 43.6533139°N 79.3840111°W / 43.6533139; -79.3840111



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