A Grand Design: The Toronto City Hall Design Competition

Toronto's distinctive City Hall and its large public square came about as the result of an international competition held in 1958 that attracted over 500 entrants from 42 countries.  It put Toronto at the centre of a major discussion on Modernist architecture.

More than fifty years later, the record of that competition constitutes a unique catalogue of ideas about architectural design in the mid-twentieth century. 

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the “New City Hall”, the Toronto Public Library, in collaboration with Christopher Armstrong, Emeritus Professor, York University, has created this website to showcase some of our materials for study and research, to make knowledge of the competition more widely available, and to celebrate this landmark in Toronto’s history.

We invite you to explore the designs of the finalists and of selected other entrants. To find out more, visit the Humanities & Social Sciences Department (2nd floor) or the Marilyn and Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre (5th floor) at the Toronto Reference Library.

In a postscript to his article on the Toronto City Hall Competition in Canadian Architect, April 1959, Swiss architect and historian Sigfried Giedion championed the publication of the results of international competitions. He gave three reasons:

"To honor the sponsor and his intention.
To honor the tremendous amount of work freely undertaken by the competitors.
To give later periods a chance of detecting important schemes overlooked at the time."

We hope this website in some part helps to achieve his vision.


Toronto Public Library with Christopher Armstrong, Emeritus Professor, York University