The Toronto Central YMCA designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects has won the 2018 Prix du XXe siècle for architecture. Presented by the National Trust for Canada and RAIC, the honorable prize distinguishes outstanding 20th-century Canadian architectural landmarks for their enduring excellence and national significance through the years.
Located on 20 Grosvenor Street in the heart of downtown, the Toronto Central YMCA has been popular since the day it opened in 1984. The three-member prize jury described the building as a seminal work of Diamond Schmitt Architects, and they selected the project “not only for its remarkable design qualities but also for its generous stance as a welcoming urban neighbor and humanist intervention” in the city.
Replacing an old facility at College and Bay streets, the Toronto YMCA provides swimming pools, gymnasia, daycare, dance studios, weights, and other athletic facilities in spaces filled with natural light, views, and a dramatic central staircase. In 2011-2012, Diamond Schmitt Architects renovated and expanded the building.
“The Toronto YMCA project embraced its somewhat modest materials, such as raw concrete and precast masonry block, and gave them an inherent dignity through simple design gestures and daring interior spaces,” the jury commented. “The building was a strong element in the 1980s revitalizing of downtown Toronto.”
The jury also praised the project's simple design concept, which they described as “large functional volumes connected through logical, yet exciting corridors that encourage the experience of public passage through the building and civic block.”
“In the world of YMCAs, it is distinguished by attracting and keeping new members,” commented RAIC President Michael Cox. “The building, which ushered in a welcoming and secular Y, clearly contributes to that success. It was designed to be, what we would call today, city-building architecture and one which stimulates social interaction...”
- Michael Heeney, FRAIC, architect and President and CEO of the Surrey City Development Corporation, Surrey, BC
- John Leroux, MRAIC, architect, historian, and Manager of Collections and Exhibitions at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton, NB
- Kendra Schank Smith, FRAIC, professor and former chair of the department of architectural science at Ryerson University, Toronto, ON
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