This building is meant to be the seat of the municipal government of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and was built to replace Old City Hall, which had housed city offices since 1899. The need for new city hall was felt as the city outgrew shortly after its predecessor’s completion. The new city hall was built in 1960s and is now considered to be one of the city’s most distinctive landmarks. However, this hall’s design drew criticism from world’s one of the best architects. Do you know who was it?
The hall was designed by Finnish architect Viljo Revell who did not live to see its completion as he passed away in 1964, one year before its opening. 1910 born Revell is best known for the design of the Lasipalatsi (“Glass Palace”) and Palace Hotel, both in Helsinki, Finland. Outside Finland, City Hall is his best design.
Plan to build a new city hall was in the air in late 1940s and 1950s and it was also a subject of several debates then. A design proposed by city’s 3 largest architecture firms in 1950s drew criticism from several architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright who called it as sterilisation. So, it was decided to pick up a design through an international design competition which again became a subject of controversy as some felt the work should be done by a Canadian. The competition received over 500 designs from 42 countries out of which three judges selected Viljo Revell’s design. However, the design again drew criticism from none other than Frank Lloyd Wright who called the design as a grave marker for a cemetery. However, the committee went ahead with Revell’s design who received a $25,000 prize plus an estimated $1 million in fees to supervise construction.
City hall building’s base is rectangular shaped and its two towers are curved in cross-section and rise to differing heights. The east tower is 27 storeys tall and the west tower has 20 storeys. Between the towers is the saucer-like council chamber, and the overall arrangement is somewhat like two hands cradling the chamber. The outer surfaces of the curve are covered with concrete bearing a rib pattern that provides strength and prevents 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. From the air, the building is seen as a giant unblinking eye, thus the building’s original nickname of “The Eye of Government”.
Interestingly, when finished, the building generated widespread controversy among many who felt that it was “too futuristic” for the city!!