NO MEAN CITY: Macy Dubois’s 45 Charles, RIP


Cross-posted from No Mean City, Alex’s personal blog on architecture

The modernist architecture of the mid-20th century is now historic. And one more interesting piece of Toronto modernism is now history: 45 Charles Street in Toronto, an eight-storey office building designed by the late Macy Dubois. It’s now being demolished, to be replaced by a much taller condo tower. (City of Toronto application here.)

In its last days this building didn’t seem exceptional – just one of many low, somewhat sculptural concrete buildings that went up between the 1960s and the early 1980s. But it was solidly built and it was aging well. Still you might be surprised – even I was – to learn that at the time of its construction in 1967, it won international praise. Check out this clipping from Progressive Architecture, the (still extant and still distinguished) British journal. Built on spec, it’s nonetheless creatively designed, canted 45 degrees to the street to welcome in air and sun between neighbouring buildings.

Dubois always had a good eye for strong formal gestures – check out the Aalto-ish New College building at the University of Toronto – and you can see that here. But he was also thinking about comfort and energy conservation. PA says the building “features light-absorbing grey glass and integral venetian blinds.”

Dubois gave a long and fascinating interview for the book Concrete Toronto, to which I contributed. I met him at its launch party, where he seemed very excited to see his work catching the attention of a new generation. I’m not sure that this building was worth saving, but it was certainly worth a gesture of respect towards an innovative and creative architect.

Also, the money quote here: “The developer “happily chose [a] less conservative version in order ‘to strengthen the idea of a strong statement on the street.’ ” This time around, the architects and developers are borrowing Dubois’s 45-degree, but in a tower that looks to be poorly proportioned and I’ll bet will be cheaply detailed. It definitely will lack the care and integrity of what’s now lost.

45 Charles Street PDF

2 comments

  1. Found this article by accident. What a shame 45 is not being celebrated instead of demolished.

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