Toronto City Hall

 In Locations

Today, we’re sharing our favorite brutalist designs in Toronto, its City Hall. Built in 1958, the city launched a competition for a “futuristic” design. Finnish architect, Viljo Revell, won that competition and designed two curved tall towers, each a different height (20 & 27 stories) that seem to cradle the council chamber, which, honestly, looks a bit like a spaceship. It’s so interesting how designs of this era, even today, feel so old and dated yet futuristic in some way. A unique combination to be sure.

Brutalist architecture, with all its concrete, can often feel so cold and oppressive. The curves in this space, at least, soften the harder nature of this. The towers, the council chamber and even the walkway and arches that reach over the plaza are all curvy.

As for photographing this space, wide and mid-range perspectives seem to work best. The same could be said for types of lenses that are best to use – wide (14-24mm range) and mid-range (24-70mm range). Starting from the plaza looking toward the towers or neighboring buildings you can get some great layers.

toronto city hall

Adding a human element really gives a sense of scale to this space!

toronto city hall

If you want to try out a telephoto (70-200mm or more) from the plaza you can really compress the elements from the plaza to the towers, which really showcases the contrast in curves vs. the grid-like lines.

toronto city hall

Here the leading lines of the walkway, plus including a natural element soften up the space.

toronto city hall

Moving our way to the towers and chamber, this is a great area for lookups. Something as simple as focusing on the lines vs curves along with reflections of the adjacent tower & clouds. Lots of great contrasts here: warm vs cool, lines vs curves, nature vs manmade.

toronto city hall

Between the towers, you can see more great contrasts between the curvy tower and the angular edge of the second tower. And if you get close to one of the buildings you get some pretty nice reflections and a more dramatic viewpoint.

toronto city hall

Brutalist architecture is often seen in black & white. Something about its harshness lends itself well to this type of processing, especially on gray days like below. However, it looks pretty amazing in color when the skies are a vibrant blue. Don’t you think?


toronto city hall

You can also focus solely on the curves. Here one of the towers + the chamber. A sunburst is an added bonus!

toronto city hall

Even on sunny days, dramatic black & white post-processing, a slightly angled perspective and the contrast between shaded & lit areas make for a strong image.

toronto city hall

If you’re joining us this summer for the Toronto workshop, this will be one of our first stops. If you’ve already photographed this space, please share with us in our Facebook Group and on Instagram!

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mca, museum of contemporary art chicago, josef paul kleihues