Art and Architecture

Canada, Toronto Guide (A): Art and Architecture

Toronto is an incredible architecture destination, with some of the most striking skyline additions housing the city’s museums and galleries. Dramatic modernist buildings have risen alongside stately older buildings. Architects including Norman Foster, I.M. Pei, Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, Will Alsop, and Mies van der Rohe have all left their marks on Toronto’s streetscapes. Follow this tour to explore Toronto's dramatic arts architecture.
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Walk Route

Guide Name: Art and Architecture
Guide Location: Canada » Toronto
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 5.0 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.0 km
Sight(s) featured in this guide: The Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art   Royal Ontario Museum   Bata Shoe Museum   Graduate House, University of Toronto   The Art Gallery of Ontario – north   The Art Gallery of Ontario – south   Sharp Centre for Design   401 Richmond   The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art   The Gladstone Hotel  
Author: Aefa Mulholland
Author Bio: Travel writer Aefa Mulholland has worked with the B.B.C., Irish national broadcaster R.T.E. and a plethora of print and online publications, including the Irish Times, Miami Herald and Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She has been published or broadcast on four continents. She is currently Editor of Private Islands Magazine and is writing “The Scottish Ambassador”—a book on learning how to become Scottish in Scottish America.
1
The Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art

1) The Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art

The KPMB-designed renovation and expansion of the Gardiner Museum offers a more muted take on museum expansion than some of the showier architectural offerings in Toronto’s permanent collection. Local architect Bruce Kuwabara — the “K” of KPMB — was the mastermind behind this modest masterpiece on Queen’s Park and his 2006 pairing of an assured modern limestone front with the Gardiner’s original neoclassical façade is one of the easier such juxtapositions the city’s streetscapes...
2
Royal Ontario Museum

2) Royal Ontario Museum

It was Goethe who said that architecture was “frozen music” and nowhere does that sentiment seem more apt than in the icy spikes of the Royal Ontario Museum. Daniel Libeskind's iconic five-pronged addition to the ROM, Canada’s largest museum, is now as much an attraction as the more than one million artifacts within. The Michael Lee-Chin Crystal’s five interlocking crystalline glass and aluminum icebergs create a jagged balustrade on the corner of Bloor and Queen’s Park — and...
3
Bata Shoe Museum

3) Bata Shoe Museum

The Bata Shoe Museum stepped onto Toronto’s museum landscape in 1995 as a home for the more than 12,500 items of footwear in Sonja Bata’s collection. This outstanding array is now arranged to tell the history of civilization by way of the way we wore. Inspired by his first visit to his client’s collection and the sight of thousands of shoes neatly kept in shoeboxes, Raymond Moriyama’s deconstructivist design treads softly on Bloor Street with a building created to look like a shoebox...
4
Graduate House, University of Toronto

4) Graduate House, University of Toronto

Stroll through the University of Toronto campus to the Thom Mayne-designed Graduate House, completed in the year 2000. Marking the western boundary of the university campus, the student residence is the work of Los Angeles-based Mayne, winner of the 2005 Pritzker Prize. The most striking feature of this contemporary gateway to the campus is its cantilevered frame and green metal signage that spells out “University of Toronto” as it juts somewhat controversially over Harbord Street at its...
5
The Art Gallery of Ontario – north

5) The Art Gallery of Ontario – north

Walk through residential streets lined with traditional Toronto bay-and-gable architecture to the art-filled Art Square café and sculpture garden for coffee. Admire the front, north side of the Frank Gehry-redesigned Art Gallery of Ontario from the café’s front patio. Gehry’s redesign was completed in 2008 and stands just blocks away from where the star architect spent much of his childhood. Features of Gehry’s first hometown commission include signature exterior elements such as the...
6
The Art Gallery of Ontario – south

6) The Art Gallery of Ontario – south

Walk round the back to the south side of the AGO to see the titanium stairs that Gehry playfully wound up the back of the new four-story blue titanium and glass addition – creating a dramatic contrast with the elegant 1817 Grange building below. The Grange building was the first home of the Art Museum of Toronto. Built in 1817 for the Boulton family, this National Historic Site still boasts its original five-bay façade and central pediment and is a fine example of 18th century British...
7
Sharp Centre for Design

7) Sharp Centre for Design

The striking spike of the 1,815 feet high CN Tower has dominated the city’s skyline and postcard selection since it rose over Lake Ontario in 1976, but it has competition when it comes to soaring, spindly structures. As you walk across the Grange Park or saunter south down McCaul Street, you’ll see British architect Will Alsop’s gorgeous, gangly Sharp Centre for Design. This startling 275 feet long checkerboard addition to Ontario College of Art and Design perches on top of twelve steel...
Image by matt6234 under Creative Commons License.
8
401 Richmond

8) 401 Richmond

At the start of the 20th century, the 401 Richmond Building was the home of the Macdonald Manufacturing Company — the first company to do fine lithography on tinware in Canada. By 1994, when the building was one step away from the wrecker's ball, the Zeidler Family stepped in and turned this former factory into a vibrant mixed-use arts building. Today 401 Richmond is a thriving 200,000-square-foot center for the arts, home to creative spaces used by more than 140 artists, designers,...
9
The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art

9) The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art

Saunter along busy Queen Street West admiring the wealth of galleries that dot the street as it transitions into the Art and Design District. The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art is set back off the street, just after Shaw Street. More a gallery than a museum, the works inside the otherwise unremarkable building are usually as eye-catching as the photographic pieces chosen for display on the museum’s one-story high exterior photo wall. Unlike the rest of Toronto’s major museums, which...
10
The Gladstone Hotel

10) The Gladstone Hotel

Finish your tour at the 1889 Gladstone Hotel, a boutique hotel where you’ll find 37 artist-designed rooms, artists-in-residence, and eye-catching artworks behind the traditional red brick Romanesque façade. Stop for a coffee, snack or meal in the Ballroom café and inquire at the front desk about current exhibitions. Originally established opposite the now demolished Parkdale railway station, the Gladstone is the oldest continuously operating hotel in Toronto. The Richardsonian Romanesque...

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