Toronto is one of the most beautiful cities in Canada, an important tourist and economic center of the country and is also considered one of the world’s most multinational cities. The general image of Toronto is based on a combination of many cultures and traditions as well as a mixture of different architectural styles. Learn more at toronto-future.
The streets of the metropolis present pieces of 19th-century Georgian architecture next to the postmodern style of the 21st century. Different architectural styles often complement each other smoothly, making the architecture eye-catchy and memorable.
General information about Toronto architectural styles and materials used for the construction
The architectural style of Toronto is characterized as an eclectic combination of different designs. The European and US styles were initially used in the process of city building. Over time, Toronto developed its own architectural solutions and styles, such as “bay window and gable” and “Annex-style house”.
The city’s old buildings were built in the British Empire styles (for example, Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian and others). In the XIX-XX centuries, the style of historicism was popular too.
After World War II, significant changes took place, as modern and postmodern architectural styles, such as the International style, came into fashion. At that time, prominent architects, including Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, Norman Foster, Will Alsop, Bei Yuming and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, lived and worked in Toronto.
Many houses in Toronto were built of bricks because of the city’s geographical position. Clay is one of the most popular and typical raw materials in the territory of Toronto. Brick has always been a particularly cheap and available material for the city building. Not only residential buildings were built from it but also industrial and commercial complexes with the Distillery district as a prominent example.
Over time, Torontonians started to build using cheaper materials, such as concrete blocks and stone. The use of aluminum, concrete and glass became popular in modern construction but brick was also present. Sandstone was a more expensive material, but it was abundant and easy to mine. It was used for many early city landmarks such as the Old City Hall, Victoria College and the “Annex-style houses”.
Initially, Toronto was built along the harbor. The advantageous close to the port location contributed to the prosperity of the city in its nascent stages. Therefore, the oldest buildings were built in the harbor area and new districts grew in different directions extremely fast. Industrial buildings were rising, including the Gooderham and Worts whiskey distilleries and the Massey Ferguson farm equipment factory. In the second half of the 19th century, railway lines, which help to get to other cities, became popular among Torontonians resulting in the construction of industrial zones around them.
In the 1970s, Toronto experienced deindustrialization processes. By the 1990s, most of the old factories that worked along the embankment were closed. Historical industrial complexes were transformed into residential buildings and offices.
The oldest preserved building in Toronto is Scadding Cabin, which was constructed in 1794 and serves as a museum nowadays. John Cox Cottage, which was built in 1807, is the oldest building that serves as a full-fledged residence. Campbell House and the Grange are listed among the oldest brick buildings and both belong to the Georgian style of the first half of the 19th century. Although that style wasn’t popular in the United States anymore, it was widely used by Toronto architects, especially for the construction of elite mansions in the Rosedale and Bridle Path neighborhoods, until the 1850s.
At the end of the 19th century, the Georgian style was replaced with the Victorian and all its variations featuring in such old neighborhoods as Cabbagetown, Trinity-Bellwoods, Parkdale, Rosedale and the Annex.
In the post-war years, suburban areas and multi-apartment buildings were built on large scales. In the 1950s, older Victorian-style neighborhoods were demolished with high-rise and multi-apartment buildings built instead, implementing the “towers in the park” project. Skyscrapers usually didn’t feature special decoration and resembled reinforced concrete rectangular structures covered with bricks.
Toronto is the commercial center of Canada, so most companies have their offices in the city. The Big Five Banks are honorably listed among the oldest and most famous Canadian firms. On the southwest part of Bay Street and King Street is located Mies van der Rohe’s Toronto-Dominion Centre, a complex of six black towers in the International style.
The oldest hotels in Toronto are Montgomery’s Inn in Etobicoke, which was built in 1832 and the famous Lambton House. Both structures are defunct but have been converted into museums.
After the emergence of railways in the mid-19th century, hotels were built near the stations. In the 20th century, skyscrapers became popular, thus, the appearance of hotels changed too. The oldest hotel of that era, the Omni King Edward Hotel, was built in 1903.
The Eaton Center is one of the most prominent shopping centers not only in Toronto but also in North America. It was created in 1977 by the project of Eberhard Zeidler. At the time, it featured quite revolutionary architecture and influenced the subsequent construction of similar buildings throughout North America. Since 2010, the shopping center has been extremely popular not only among locals but also among tourists.
In Toronto, these architectural gems serve as landmarks of the city. The CN Tower is the most significant among them, as it was the tallest free-standing structure in the world from 1975 to 2007. The Casa Loma palace, which was built in the early 1910s, is no less noticeable. It functions as a museum and a venue for various ceremonial events. The Princes’ Gates, a triumphal arch in the neoclassical style, also became a landmark for many people.