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  • Writer's pictureJustine Rowbotham-Belot

Our Top 5 Favourite Buildings in Canada (…That we did not design)

We love being Canadian, and to show our patriotism, we want to showcase some beautiful architecture here in our home country. You don’t need to visit Europe to see the good stuff!

The Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto ON

The Royal Ontario Museum, commonly known to locals as the ROM has been the subject of local controversy for years, as the building meets old and new architectural styles dramatically. The original building was designed by Toronto architects Frank Darling and John A. Pearson, now known as the “Western Wing”. This original building is heavily massed with large feature windows with heavy surrounds and hood moldings. The “Eastern Wing” was designed by Alfred H. Chapman and James Oxley, which opened in 1933. This addition was built in a neo-byzantine style with rusticated stone, triple windows contained within recessed arches and different coloured stones arranged in various patterns. The façade also contains elements of gothic revival decorated with gargoyles and statues.

The more famously known addition and the subject of controversy is known as the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal designed by Daniel Libeskind, which opened in 2007. The crystalline form is clad in 25% glass and 75% aluminum sitting atop a steel frame. When first approached, the building looks out of place, as if two buildings were squished together on the street. A subject of controversy, yes, but also a masterpiece.

Sharpe Centre for Design – OCAD University, Toronto ON

Any student attending a University in Toronto will know about OCAD University, not only students, but any downtown resident also knows about OCAD University. Why? Because it is extremely hard to miss, the building, in a sense, defies a lot of what we expect when designing modern architecture, let alone a university.

The Sharpe Centre for Design was part of campus re-development in 2004, the structure is an award-winning table-top shape standing elevated above campus grounds, designed by Bristish architect, Will Aslop. The building is essentially a box in the sky supported by columns and pipes, with efficient space to operate a university, while saving space on the street.

Habitat 67, Montreal, QB

Habitat 67, also known simply as Habitat, is a residential housing complex designed by Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie. The design was originally conceived while completing his Masters degree at McGill University in Montreal, QB. The building is comprised 354 identical, prefabricated concrete forms arranged in various combinations reaching 12 Storeys. The units and balconies vary in sizes depending on where the unit is in the complex.

Habitat has been featured in pop culture including on the cover of a couple of albums and was on scene during an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. From the street as a passerby, the building looks like the ultimate Lego masterpiece.

Banff Springs Hotel, Banff, AB

You simply cannot visit Banff without visiting this hotel, if the walls could talk, oh the story’s they would tell…it feels like you are rolling up to modern day Canadian Hogwarts.

The hotel is built at the convergence of the Bow and Spray River located in Banff, Alberta, Canada’s first National Park. The construction of the hotel began in 1887 and opened 1 year later. Its original design was substantially smaller than the hotel we know today and was made of a timber frame. Triadically the hotel burnt down in 1926 but was re-built to its present form in 1928. The Banff Springs has had multiple designers throughout its various transformations. As a result, it mimics features from French gothic architecture, Renaissance revival and Scottish baronial architecture.

It is an early example of Canadian Chateauesque styled railway hotel, featuring steep copper pitched roofs, ornate dormers, gables, and massive wall surfaces made of rundle limestone. The hotel is thought of as a living entity as it has transformed alongside the rest of society while maintaining its original intent and integrity.

Calgary Central Library, Calgary, AB

The newest iconic design on our list was recently completed in 2018, the Calgary Central Library is a seamless fusion of artistry, architecture, and infrastructure. The library was designed by Snøhetta and Canadian firm, Dialog, located above the LRT station in Downtown Calgary. The design mimics the chinook winds in the form of wooden arches and an abstract window design. The new building adds curb appeal for the city, it is a library, yes, but also an architectural marvel.

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