Toronto City Hall

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Things to do


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August, 2015

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Toronto City Hall has been such an iconic building in the city for so long that we sometimes forget how amazing it was when it was built. September 13, 2015 was the building’s 50th anniversary. On a recent visit to the city I took some time to examine the building again as someone might on seeing it for the first time. One of my friends works in the building so I had time to wander around the lobby and take some photos while waiting for her to finish work for the day. I had also spent some time that afternoon at the Art Gallery of Ontario and saw mention of the architect of City Hall which got me thinking about City Hall as a building.

The unique centre dome and two separate rounded towers – one 27 and one 20 floors – have since been dwarfed by the surrounding sky scrapers, but they are still striking as you walk into Nathan Phillips Square in front of the building. You can pick up a brochure with a self-guided tour in the lobby where you will also find many tourism pamphlets for Toronto and the surrounding area.

As you enter the lobby, the first thing you see is the Commemorative Column to Viljo Revell, the Finnish architect. Sadly, he died before the building opened in 1965. To the left of the lobby is a scale model of the central part of Toronto stretching from the Don River in the east to Dufferin Street in the west and Bloor Street in the north to Lake Ontario in the south. To the right of the lobby is The Wall of Nails – a mural by David Partridge (1919-2006) called Metropolis. It contains 100,000 nails and weighs over 1 ½ tonnes. Down the hallway is a café that looks over Nathan Phillips Square.

In the centre of the lobby are the Central Column and the Hall of Memory and Time Capsule. The Central Column is the sole support for the city council chamber which weighs 4,000 tonnes. The memorial is for the 3,500 Torontonians who died in WWII and the Time Capsule dates from 1962.

I did not get up to the second floor, but it is also included in the self-guided brochure: Coat of Arms; Mayor’s Office and the Chain of Office; Norval Morrisseau Artwork; Portraits of Toronto’s Mayors; and Mosaic Display.

I remember going up to the roof of one of the office towers in the 1970s to see the cityscape, but such public access is long since gone. However, if you have time, walk up the ramp from Nathan Phillips Square for a stroll through the Podium Green Roof – a public roof garden that opened in 2010. On this particular trip I did not get up to the roof garden but, according to the brochure, there are landscaped gardens, courtyards, furniture and walkways. I will definitely check it out on my next trip. It sounds like a good spot for a picnic on a nice day.

Outside the building is a Henry Moore sculpture, Archer – 200 more can be seen at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Revell asked Moore to design a sculpture specifically for the rounded theme of City Hall. Throughout the year, Nathan Phillips Square – named for a former Mayor – is the site of many events and the fountain is turned into a skating rink in the winter. The arches above the fountain carry on the rounded theme of City Hall. Currently there are giant letters across one width of the fountain spelling out the name of the city. You can also see Old City Hall, right next door, a National Historic Site.

“Toronto City Hall”:

Denise Bridge

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