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For a relatively young city, 175 years young in 2009, Toronto has a tremendous variety of architecture. What is astonishing is the compatibility among the city's old architecture and the new. There are many restored buildings in Toronto along side the new developments. It is a significant achievement, and it works.
Note: it is impossible to describe the architectural details of each building; for that reason there are links, with photos in most cases. The photos speak for themselves. In addition, the links provide a lot of information on Toronto architecture. If you are interested in architecture, the information provided in the links may help you decide if a particular building is of interest to you.
When driving into the city it's impossible to miss theCN Tower . It is the highlight of Toronto's landscape and it's hard to imagine the city without this incredible structure. Neighbouring the CN Tower is the Rogers Centre (formerly SkyDome), which has become known as another outstanding Toronto landmark. Some people find the Rogers Centre captivating and inviting; others think it's an unimaginative blight on the city's skyline. You can decide for yourself. In 2013, the new Ripley's Aquarium opened to fantastic reviews, located at the base of the CN Tower. Kids or not, this is a spectal to behold (providing you like walking through a glass tunnel surrounded by sharks!).
The gateway to the city, on the western edge of downtown, is brimming with both historic and modern structures, from the Canadian National Exhibition buildings dating back one hundred years to the more recent addition of Ontario Place, which opened in 1971 but closed in 2012 as the province and city plan out the future use of the site.
Proceed past all this and you will find yourself in the downtown area of Toronto. A favourite view in Toronto is up Bay Street, looking at the Clock Tower of Toronto's Old City Hall. This is truly a magnificent building and one that has always stood out for its architectural details. Turn the corner, and you will be looking at Toronto's New City Hall, designed by the Finnish architect Viljo Revell and opened in 1965.
In front of City Hall is Nathan Phillips Square, which in the winter is home to a hugely popular skating rink. In the summer, the square is used for free concerts, a farmers' market, etc. The New City Hall is as distinctive in its construction as is the Old City Hall. It's very interesting to see these two designs situated so close to each other. There are numerous historical buildings in Toronto. One of the most fascinating elements in many of the older buildings is the amount of detailing that has gone into them. Many of the buildings have stone type carvings along their facade and it is incredible that they have stood the test of time. There is the Canadian Pacific Railway Building which at one point was the highest building in Toronto. Whitney Block on Wellesley Street is another interesting and beautiful building.
Union Station has a character all its own. A book could be written on the architecture of Union Station alone, and probably has been at some point. A major renovation to Union Station is set to be completed by the end of 2014.
Toronto has its own early 20th century castle called Casa Loma. It has a gorgeous setting with everything in place just as it was when it was first built close to one hundred years ago. With beautiful gardens as its backdrop, Casa Loma really is a spectacular image. The Royal York Hotel is another famous landmark in Toronto.
In addition to the above mentioned structures, a few more noteworthy buildings in Toronto, some old, some new, are: The University of Toronto campus (as well as the U of T Robarts Library designed to look like a giant peacock, and it really does!), Roy Thomson Hall and the Princess of Wales Theatre. There are many, many more architectural feats of Toronto...too numerous to mention.
As well. a cultural renaissance has been underway with major expansions completed at the Royal Ontario Museum (designed by Daniel Libeskind), a new home for the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet of Canada (the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts), and the Gardiner Musuem. Expansion of the Art Gallery of Ontario designed by Frank Gehry was completed in 2008. The quality of new facilities is impressive. Not surprisingly, the malls in Toronto can be looked upon as being artistic in their own way. The Toronto Eaton Centre, Sherway Gardens, Hazelton Lanes, Queens Quay Terminal, Woodbine Centre, Yorkdale Shopping Centre and Bayview Village to name a few are all very unique and well thought out complexes. The Toronto Eaton Centre is arguably the most significant architectural retail building built in Canada during the 20th century. Toronto is an environment that is interesting and has a balanced mix of the old and the new. Toronto is the perfect city to visit if you wish to experience this.
Many of the above buldings are part of architectural walking tours that run from May to October each year. The Toronto Society of Architects (the local non-profit chapter of the Ontario Asociation of Architects) runs Toronto Architecture Tours every weekend from May to the end of September offering three different two hour walking tours focusing on Toronto's contemporary architecture (post WW2). Heritage Toronto also runs tours that focus more on pre WW2 buldings that make up some of Toronto's unique heritage neighbourhoods.
Architecture fans look forward to the annual Doors Open weekend in late May. Over 140 buildings are open for public exploration, all free of charge. Many of these buildings are not otherwise open to the public.
The Eric Arthur Gallery at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design displays architectural exhibits, often with a local connection. Admission is free.
To find out more about architecture in Toronto, see:
The Flatiron Building in Toronto located at 49 Wellington St E, is a must see for anyone with an interest in architecture. It was built in 1892, ten years before the Flatiron Building was constructed in New York City. Originally it was built for the offices of the Gooderham and Worts Distilery. The cost to build the Flatiron was $18,000.00