Saturday, June 22, 2013

bonus features: goodbye historic concourse building, hello ernst & young tower

This post offers supplementary material for a recent Torontoist article, which you should read first before diving into this post.

Mosaics by J.E.H. MacDonald on the arch of the entrance to the Concourse Building. Photo taken June 18, 2013.
Whatever your opinion on the merits of facadism, it is a relief to know that the surviving pieces of J.E.H. MacDonald's work on the Concourse will live on in its successor. I wonder if anyone has approached Oxford Properties to include poetry in the foyer as the Concourse originally did. There are several approaches that could work:
  • Restore the poetry that graced the Concourse in 1929.
  • Add in appropriate verse from poets of that era who weren't represented in the Concourse.
  • Assign current poets to provide fresh verse.
  • Utilize poetry about Toronto.

Advertisement, the Toronto Star, March 15, 1929.
Early advertising for the Concourse stressed its colour palette. Though its colours were faded by age and grime, it still has a more interesting mix of shades than other nearby towers.

Advertisement, the Toronto Star, March 23, 1929.
The poetry etched into the lobby appears to have been a major selling point. Also note the lines about Canada's "inferiority complex" and how an office tower could play its role in shaking Canadians out of their stupor.

Advertisement, the Globe, March 5, 1929.
Companies whose products were installed in the Concourse did their best to promote their involvement in the project. Did you know that linoleum aids concentration? At the very least, it prevented office workers from zapping each other with static electricity after shuffling their feet on the carpet.

Details from the south facade of the building. Photo take June 18, 2013.
One of the few news stories about the Concourse I stumbled upon between its opening and the controversy surrounding Oxford’s plans for the site was this tidbit from the December 17, 1938 edition of the Globe and Mail:
MOVIES SEEN FOR OFFICES

“As commercial and industrial methods become increasingly mechanized and buildings are air-conditioned and sound-proofed, the newest suggestion advanced is that the office building of the immediate future will be equipped not only with radio reception facilities, but also with sound motion picture projectors and even television.” Eric W. Haldenby, prominent Canadian architect, said last night.

First screening room for non-theatrical purposes for exhibiting commercial and industrial films opened in the Concourse Building in Toronto this week, where Associated Screen News Limited has established a well-equipped film service centre.
Besides making available certain types of commercial films, this new film service centre maintains a staff of cameramen and movie technicians with every facility for producing Canadian films on Canadian subjects. Portable filmosound projection equipment is also available to users of commercial films, and to churches, schools, clubs, and associations.
What Haldenby didn’t forsee: generations of office workers bored by corporate videos or laughing at “what-the-hell-were-they-thinking?” instructional films.

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