The city’s fourth city hall, it was built between 1958 and 1965 in modern sculptural style. It’s the symbol of Toronto’s postwar dynamism, although not everyone felt that way when it was completed. According to Pierre Berton, Frank Lloyd Wright said of it, “You’ve got a headmarker for a grave and future generations will look at it and say: ‘This marks the spot where Toronto fell.’” The truth is quite the opposite—this breathtaking building was the first architectural marker of an evolving metropolis. Finnish architect Viljo Revell won a design competition that drew entries by 510 architects from 42 countries, including I. M. Pei. The building has a great square in front with a fountain and pool; people flock here in summer to relax, and in winter to skate. The square’s namesake, Nathan Phillips, was Toronto’s first Jewish mayor.
City Hall also has some art worth viewing. Look just inside the entrance for Metropolis, which local artist David Partridge fashioned from more than 100,000 common nails. You’ll need to stand well back to enjoy the effect. Henry Moore’s sculpture The Archer stands in front of the building—thanks to Mayor Phil Givens, who raised the money to buy it through public subscription after city authorities refused. The gesture encouraged Moore to bestow a major collection of his works on the Art Gallery of Ontario. Two curved concrete towers, which house the bureaucracy, flank the Council Chamber. From the air, the whole complex supposedly looks like an eye peering up at the heavens.
Recently, the pretty, elevated walkways were opened to the public after decades; they’re a good way to get a close look at the buildings and check out the street scenes below.