Saturday, December 4, 2010

Thinking of a Deco home renovation?

Our friends in Melbourne Australia have recently updated their popular Guide to Renovating Art Deco. The new version, published by the Art Deco and Modernism Society, contains 35 articles collected from their Spirit of Progress newsletter and is richly illustrated with colour images. 

It's available in either a CD version, selling for $22 (Australian dollars) plus overseas shipping, and a hard copy version for $33 plus shipping. The mailing address to order is:
Art Deco and Modernism Society, PO Box 17, Camberwell, Victoria, 3124, Australia. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

A 'supreme' example of French-flavoured Deco

The Supreme Court of Canada building in Ottawa, designed by Montreal-based architect Ernest Cormier, is one of the most refined examples of Art Deco in the country.

The building elegantly combines Stripped Classical features such as fluted pilasters, coffered ceiling panels and a striking symmetrical marble staircase with geometric frosted panes of glass in the front facade windows and thoroughly modern chandeliers.

It is said that the Prime Minister of the day, William Lyon Mackenzie King, insisted that Cormier add the chateau-style copper roof to the building to make it blend in with its neighbouring buildings. Nonetheless, the building's Deco charm easily shines through!

Thanks to David Thompson's blog posting for this photo and for reminding me about the wonders of this building (which coincidentally, was the reason I got interested in Art Deco in the first place!).

Check out the 360-degree virtual tours of the building from the government's official website.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Feature attraction! gas, milk and a coffee

Allenby (later Roxy) cinema as Hollywood dinner theatre in the 1980s.
Toronto's Allenby cinema – located at 1215 Danforth Ave., just east of Greenwood Ave., later rebranded the Roxy – was designed by noted theatre architects Kaplan and Sprachman in 1936. (After its cinema days were over, it was known to a generation of mostly youthful Torontonians as the home of midnight showings of Rocky Horror Picture Show, and as then as the Hollywood Dinner Theatre before lying closed and derelict for more than a decade. 

About a year ago, things began happening when Imperial Oil (which owned the corner lot, formerly the site of a gas station), began transforming the tired but still intact yellow brick building with decorative stone details into a state-of-the-art On the Run convenience store.
Original canopy has been faithfully
rebuilt, including neon lettering.

With the building now essentially finished, Torontonians who once eagerly lined-up to watch the latest movie now line up in droves to get their daily fix of Tim Hortons coffee!

At end of August, the hoarding was still up.
The contemporary On the Run entrance
is to the far right of the photo, facing west.
 Kudos to Imperial Oil for their wisdom to preserve and restore so much of the building to create a unique 'c-store' experience, and to ERA Architects and Teksign for pulling it off!

Read the story about the building's transformation in articles by Dave Leblanc (The Globe and Mail) and Christopher Hume (The Toronto Star)

Footnote: Other Deco-era cinemas in Toronto designed by Kaplan and Sprachman are the former Eglinton cinema (400 Eglinton Avenue West, 1934-36); the former Bayview (1605 Bayview Avenue, 1936), the former State (1610 Bloor Street West, 1937), the Metro (679 Bloor Street West, 1938) and the Paradise (1008 Bloor Street West, 1939). Two other Deco cinemas (the Pylon – 608-610 College Street, 1939, now the Royal; and the Kingsway – 3030 Bloor Street West, 1939-40) were designed by different architects. Source: Art Deco Architecture in Toronto by Tim Morawetz, 2009.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Art Deco 'scores a hat trick' at 2010 Heritage Toronto Awards

Tim (far right) and Catherine (to Tim's right)
receive their awards on stage at Koerner Hall
in this rather blurry smartphone photo.
Tim Morawetz is proud and delighted to announce that his book, Art Deco Architecture in Toronto: A guide to the city's buildings from the Roaring Twenties and the Depression, which was previously named a 'Finalist' in the 2010 Heritage Toronto Awards, ended up winning an 'Award of Merit' at the event earlier this evening. (The book was one of three Merit Award recipients, from a field of 10 worthy contenders.) A full listing of all the winners and finalists in all categories is available here.

Tim eagerly shared the recognition with the book's graphic designer, his colleague and friend Catherine Hamill of Norton Hamill Design.

In addition, the Deco era was celebrated, in part, when the 'Award of Excellence' was very deservedly presented to A Passionate Traditionalist: John M. Lyle, Architect (Coach House Books, 2009) by Glenn McArthur.  This book is the definitive work on the life and work of John Lyle – a man who many would say was the premier architect of the first half of the 20th century in English-Canada, and a master and promoter of 'Canadian-themed' Deco architecture at one point in his illustrious career.

Finally, the revitalization of the Automotive Building, 105 Princes' Boulevard on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition – arguably Toronto's best example of the Stripped Classical variant of Art Deco architecture – now the Allstream Centre, was also recognized with an Award of Merit in the 'William Greer Architectural Conservation and Craftsmanship' category.

Automotive Building – BEFORE
Allstream Centre – AFTER
Thanks to the vision of heritage consultants Andre Scheinman; E.R.A. Architects Inc., James Bailey Architect, together with the work of Vanbots Construction Corp. and Clifford Restoration Ltd., the 1929 building was restored and rehabilitated into a conference centre. The original Art Deco style building envelope and north and south lobbies were restored and new conference rooms and support spaces inserted into the original open exhibit hall. Restoration work included repairing exterior cast stone and masonry, reintroducing multi-pane windows to match the originals, cleaning and repairing terrazzo floors and refurbishing or recreating original light fixtures.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Art Deco shimmers in Battle of the Blades

Last year, the Battle of the Blades 'figure-skater / hockey-skater combo' TV show took place at Maple Leaf Gardens, the ultimate Art Deco ice palace (1931; Ross & Macdonald, with Jack Ryrie and Mackenzie Waters).

  Georges Laraque and Anabelle Langlois with classic lotus-leaf Art Deco decoration behind.
But this year, despite the fact the show now originates from a brand-new, custom-built set in a giant production studio, the show's designers have retained the Gardens decor. (Read more from National Post columnist Peter Kuitenbrouwer about the creation of the show's set in the Pinewood Studios Toronto.)

Stone 'balconies' accentual recessed vertical strip windows
For instance, the sides of the hall are adorned with crisply fluted vertical piers topped with the Gardens' signature zig-zag details.

More boldly,  there are decorative screens around the ice surface that feature  timeless Deco lotus leaves.

To me, the fact this shamelessly populist reality TV show is putting Art Deco front-and-centre is the best proof that this style truly resonates with the general public!

Notice the bold zig-zags and horizontal stone detailing on the Gardens' facade.

New Women's College Hospital is fracturing its Deco spine

In all the publicity lately about the revitalization of Women's College Hospital, it appears to me that scant attention is being paid to the fact that a heritage building – a National Historic Site, in fact – is being demolished to make way for this new facility.

According to the WCH website History page, the hospital moved in 1935 to its present location at 76 Grenville Street, located close to the University of Toronto. The 10-storey-tall building housed with 140 beds and 45 infant cots, and was officially opened February 22, 1936 by His Excellency, Lord Tweedsmuir, Governor-General of Canada.  The architects of the building were the Boston architectural firm, Stevens and Lee, collaborating with a local Toronto architect, Harold J. Smith.

(For a very detailed history of the institution (formerly known as the Women’s Medical College of Toronto) and its outstanding contribution to women's health in Toronto, click here.)

Now I'm well aware that 'the horse is well out of the barn' in terms of any efforts to save the old building, but I believe it deserves some recognition and celebration for its stately, Deco-tinged design.

Women's College at the time of its opening in 1935. (Credit: City of Toronto archives)
Recent view of the original 1935 wing. (Photo: Alan L. Brown)

On the rather quiet Stripped Classical facade, notice the vertical treatment of the windows, the decoration on the spandrel panels, but especially the multiple-plane detailing of the stone-and-brick corners of the piers protruding above the main roofline on either side.

Beyond its contemporary styling, the building also ushered in some important functional innovations for its time:
  • improved fireproofing, thanks to a combination of steel frames, reinforced concrete, and hollow tile to isolate fire stairs and panic doors, as well as improved electrical systems.
  • enhanced soundproofing to create a quiet environment conducive to recuperation, through the use of noiseless door hardware, elevators and staircases located away from wards, rubber hallway flooring, and a silent light 'call button' system.
  • ease of maintenance to maintain sanitary conditions.
  • efficiency of the floor layout (a double-loaded central corridor).
  • brighter pastel colours – a breath of fresh air compared to the institutional grey and white colour schemes prevalent at the time.
I invite anyone who has information or would like to dig out more information about the design of the 1935 building to add a comment or get in touch!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Toronto Art Deco book an award finalist!

I'm delighted to announce that my book has been named a 'Finalist' in 2010 Heritage Toronto Awards! 

For info on the awards (or to possibly attend if you're in Toronto!), click here

To read about the other finalists, click here.

Note: Another book finalist is Glenn McArthur's A Progressive Traditionalist: John M. Lyle, Architect (Coach House Books, 2009). This excellent book is the 'definitive work' on the life and work of the man who, in my opinion, was English-Canada's premier architect of the first half of the 20th century, and a master and promoter of 'Canadian-themed' Deco architecture.

How Toronto's Deco skyscrapers looked in the 1960s

This photo is from a post on BlogTO, which features some wonderful photos of the Toronto skyline back in the 1960s, largely before the downtown development craze that deprived us today of such Deco landmarks as the Toronto Star (1929, Chapman and Oxley, demolished 1970).

(For those of us who didn't grow up in Toronto in the Sixties, it's easy to understand what an impact the arrival of the TD Centre made when you study this photo!)

Hopefully our 'community' (political leaders, but ultimately, citizens like you and me) can exercise better judgment a half-century from now in determining which of today's skyscrapers are worth saving and which aren't...

Monday, September 20, 2010

From cars to conventions... the re-birth of the Automotive Building

The design of the Automotive Building – completed in 1929 and located at 105 Princes' Boulevard, Toronto (on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition, fondly known as the 'Ex') – involved a competition with 36 entrants.

The competition winner, Douglas Kertland (1880 – 1982), created what I consider to be the finest example of the 'Stripped Classical' style in Toronto.

The facade of the 120,000 square-foot, two-level facility – built as a showcase for the latest cars, buses and trucks, as well as automotive accessories – featured ribbed pilasters, round arched entries, a decorative moulding and ornamental metal grilles. (For more info, see pages 67 – 69 of Art Deco Architecture in Toronto.)

Here are some photos of the building from 1993 (prior to its major renovation):

Green, cast-iron spandrel panel with multiple planes.

Notice decorative carved owl atop smooth pilaster.

Metal grille covering blind windows contains stylized floral motifs.

In the fall of 2009, after an extensive renovation, the building was reopened as The Allstream Centre, a state-of-the-art convention centre.

Click here to view a photo of the renovated exterior.

The article below, written by The Toronto Star's architecture reporter Christopher Hume at the time of the renovated building's opening, includes a photo of the interior.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Si, there's Art Deco in Puerto Rico!

I just heard about the newly formed Puerto Rico Art Deco Society.

Check out their new website to see some terrific images of tropical style Deco and Moderne buildings. It also contains excellent links to Art Deco societies and other organizations around the world.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tour the Deco sights in Poland this fall!

Thanks to a link on the Art Deco Montréal website, I've just learned about a tour of Art Deco sights in Poland, taking place between Sept. 19 and October 1.

The tour includes visits to Warsaw, Krakow, Katowice and more. It's presented by the Polish Museum of America based in Chicago, and by Supertour DMC Ltd. in Warsaw.

Learn more...

Hot news from down under!

It hasn't made it to the official websites yet, but I understand that the book Melbourne Art Deco, – written by Robin Grow (the president of that Australian capital city's Art Deco & Modernism Society) with many photos by Deco master-blogger David Thompson  – has won 'Best Publication' in the 2010 Victorian Community History Awards. Congrats Robin and David!

Melbourne was the host city of the Ninth World Congress on Art Deco® held in April 2007.

Speaking of World Congresses (and cities south of the equator), mark your calendar now for the 2011 World Congress, taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from August 14 to 21 (hosted by the Instituto Art Déco Brasil), with a pre-congress in Sao Paulo, Brazil from August 11 to 13. (Brazil’s capital city until 1960, Rio enjoyed a belle époque in architecture, design, art and music during the first half of the 20th century, with Art Deco representing the arrival of Modernity.)

Take it from me, it's an amazing experience to spend a week surrounded by other Decophiles and seeing and learning about another city or country's Deco!

The World Congress on Art Deco® is a registered trademark of the Miami Design Preservation League, Inc., of Miami, Florida, USA. All rights reserved worldwide.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The game of 'Deco' LIFE!

Okay, so this interactive game wasn't developed in the 1920s, but it's a fun way to experience the Roaring Twenties from the perspective of a middle-class English-speaking man or woman living in Montreal.

It's part of the 'Keys to History' series on the website of the McCord Museum in Montreal. It's got period music, excellent details, and a devilish sense of humour. Go on, give it a spin!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What's your favourite Deco building in Toronto?

Visit our Facebook group page and join the discussion!

(Tim Morawetz's  favourite – a tough call since there's so many interesting ones – is Garden Court apartments.)

See Toronto's skyline circa 1930!

I just googled (digitally stumbled) upon a blog posting from Janet McNaughton that has some wonderful images of what Toronto's skyline looked like around 19230. Deco skyscrapers that we now perceive within a dense urban context were once landmarks on the skyline, with their pyramidally massed elevations that much more compelling. Check it out!

Three Deco-era skyscrapers: Canada Life (far left); Royal York Hotel (centre left); Canadian Bank of Commerce (centre right).

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Heritage preservation 1, Telecom 0 in Los Angeles

State-of-the-art technology was frequently celebrated in the Art Deco decoration.

So, isn't it a delicious irony that a bid by the U.S. cellular telephone company T-Mobile was denied its request to place four unsightly cell transmission towers atop the 1930-31 La Marquise Apartment Tower at 535 South Gramercy Place in Los Angeles, designed by architect Paul Kingsbury?

Click here for details.

Hollywood & Art Deco: a classic double-bill

The Art Deco style certainly made itself felt on the movies, both in terms of the sets and costumes of films from the period, as well as in the design of cinemas themselves. In fact, Art Deco cinemas can literally be found the world over, from the smallest towns to the biggest cities.

Fortunately, the city that's intimately associated with the movies – Hollywood –  has its own Art Deco society (Art Deco Society of Los Angeles).

In my opinion, ADSLA is one of the most organized and effective Deco societies, with a full slate of events (walking tours, lectures, movie showings and galas). As well, it monitors preservation issues in that city, as well as around the world.

If and when you travel to LA, be sure you check out ADSLA's website to see if there's an event you can work into your schedule!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Australia-based blog features Deco buildings around the world!

If you love Art Deco buildings, then you'll easily spend hours browsing the Art Deco Buildings website, bearing the sub-title, Look up for inspiration and beauty.

The site features buildings from hundreds of cities and towns in Australia, as well as overseas. (For instance, it has 49 posts for Canada.) All buildings are categorized by city and by country, and each comes with informative descriptions.

The site also links with countless other Deco-related blogs of interest. Check it out!

Step on it, Toronto!

I've recently discovered three wonderful examples of terrazzo flooring in Toronto that I didn't know about previously. (Terrazzo is a hard-surface flooring made of fine chips of coloured marble, divided by metal strips, that has been ground smooth. It can be found indoors or out, and is ideally suited to high-traffic areas like foyers or entryways.) Check out these pics, and share other examples with us using the comments box!

Second floor lobby of Concourse Building, 100 Adelaide Street West, Toronto. Notice the 'mountain' motif at the rear, the projecting rays of energy, and the inlaid brass stars of different shapes. For more info about the building, see pp. 9-11 in Art Deco Architecture in Toronto book.
Inside foyer of The Royal cinema, 608-610 College Street, Toronto, designed in 1939 by Benjamin Swartz. This building was formerly The Pylon; see page 130 in Art Deco Architecture in Toronto book.
This convenience store at Yonge and Chatsworth, Toronto, was once a pharmacy.

Help save streamlined Australian cinema!

Please help preserve the Glenelg Ozone Cinema in Glenelg South Australia by signing the online petition!

This cinema is an outstanding example of the Art Deco style and possibly the earliest remaining air-conditioned, fully Art Deco designed cinema in the region. Faced in Basket Range freestone, featuring horizontal fins and a prominent vertical signage element (both originally neon lit) it is the only Art Deco theatre in Australia constructed with a stone front. The building was designed in 1936 by F. Kenneth Milne, a prominent interwar architect, after visiting the United Kingdom in the early 1930s.

Update on Maple Leaf Gardens renovation

Ryerson University is making good progress in its creation of its athletic centre in a new space above the ice surface of the former 'hockey shrine.' Click here for the latest details of Ryerson's renovation.

For article and photos of the Gardens in its unrenovated (abandoned) state, click here

For initial articles outlining the plans for Ryerson and Loblaws to share the building, click here

Artist's rendering of the finished building, with Ryerson using main Carlton Street entrance and Loblaws store having a new entrance at the southeast corner of the building.
Artist's rendering of the finished Ryerson University ground-level foyer (Carlton Street at right).

Welcome to the new blog!

Hello Art Deco lover:
I'm delighted you've visited this blog, and I hope you'll bookmark it, and tell your Decophile friends about it as well. Cheers, Tim