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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Goodbye, Dear Riverdale?

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One of the things I love most about Toronto is the way our modern structures sometimes seem to rise straight out of the wilderness of our ravines and parks — and it’s partly what I write about in my uTOpia essay Pssst. Modern Toronto Just Wants Some Respect. A perfect example of this, one I don’t talk about in the essay, but very much at risk this week, is Riverdale Hospital.

Stand on the top of the hill just south of the Riverdale Zoo and look east across the Don Valley and check out how beautiful the round and space-age hospital is, sitting in contrast to the scary looking Don Jail next door. Well, Bridgepoint Health, the company with the newly branded name that runs the place now wants to tear it down. As reported on Marc Weisblott’s great Paved blog (if you didn’t think there was a connection between Madonna and Toronto, you should read his blog), it was “dubbed ‘The Taj Mahal of Bedcare Centres’ when it opened 42 years ago — the curved design was geared to provide patients with the best possible view of the Don Valley outside, and outsiders to behold the hospital.” If you want more info on the building, and how to help save it (though the decision goes to council tomorrow/Tuesday so hurry) check out the Toronto Architecture Conservancy site. The City of Toronto owns the building, so a decision at council to save it means it will stay, and there’s nothing like it in Toronto.

It’s fitting that the hospital is next to the Don Jail, an old building that we, rightly so, insist on not tearing down. Why we don’t afford the same respect to our great buildings built in the post-war era is something we need to change if we’re to keep a big part of what makes Toronto great.