Architecture Monday

Check out this pretty glorious example of midcentury modern design, in the form of a church in Toronto.  Slightly expressive, and slightly reserved, it’s a neat exercise in form, contrast, colour, and light.

Sadly, I could only find a couple of images of the inside, but they do tell most of the story of how the two parabolic sets of gluelam beams soar upwards yet don’t meet, leaving a gap for a band of windows that lets light filter down the wall in a soft gradient of light.  A similar shift of planes happens at the altar end of the church, bathing the back wall in a similar light with the potential to cast a dramatic shadow of the cross (which also reminds me of Tadao Ando’s Chapel on Mount Rokko done nearly 30 years later).  At the same time, the opposite sides of the nave and the apse are punctuated by small coloured windows.

There’s so much nifty stuff going on here, starting with the light play above which is further enhanced by having the taller lit parabola be white to catch the light, while the other side is a darker wood to accentuate the colourful piercings.  On that same side we have an aisle of sorts, formed between the space of the gluelam and the outside wall with a zig-zag ceiling that becomes a brow both inside and out, while outside, that same wall faces the street and is clad in a richly toned quarried stone.  And while the pipe organ seems to be a more recent addition, but hovers like a pair of sails that mimic the rising paraboloids.

What’s also cool is that the architecture firm who designed this also designed some very iconic and long-lasting urban icons, including Ontario Place (whose pods fascinated me as a kid), Canada Place, and the Eaton’s Centre!  (And the equally nifty Parkwoods Church nearby in North York.)  I’d never realized they were all done by the same firm… that’s some serious design chops.

Unfortunately, this church is currently up for sale and its days may well be numbered, very likely to be replaced with some banal cookie-cutter subdivision homes.  But if you’ve got $7m Canadian you could take this and turn it into some pretty sweet digs for yourself!

West Ellesmere United Church by Zeidler Partnership.

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