OTTAWA — The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) and the National Trust for Canada have announced the Toronto Central YMCA as the recipient of the 2018 Prix du XXe siecle.
The prize, announced May 16, is awarded in recognition of “enduring excellence and significance to Canada’s architectural legacy,” said a media statement.
The structure, designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects, opened in 1984 at 20 Grosvenor St. and renovated by Diamond Schmitt in 2011-12, was praised by the RAIC for its simple design concept: “large functional volumes connected through logical yet exciting corridors that encourage the experience of public passage through the building and civic block.”
“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,” said the jury. “The building was a strong element in the 1980s revitalizing of downtown Toronto.”
The jury selected it “not only for its remarkable design qualities but also for its generous stance as a welcoming urban neighbour and humanist intervention in the heart of downtown Toronto,” noted the release.
The building, now called the Toronto Central Grosvenor Street YMCA Centre, provided swimming pools, gymnasia, daycare, dance, weights and other sports facilities in spaces with “abundant natural light, views and a dramatic central stair,” said the RAIC.
The YMCA replaced an outdated facility at College and Bay streets and reflected change, the statement said. The original YMCA was established at the end of the 19th century to accommodate Christian youth migrating from rural to urban life but by the 1980s it was revisioned to promote inclusion in a diversifying society.
“The National Trust is pleased to work in partnership with the RAIC to highlight great places that matter,” said its executive director Natalie Bull in the statement.
“The Toronto Central YMCA perfectly reflects the intent of the Prix du XXe siecle to bring national attention and understanding to the heritage of the modern movement in Canada, and to recognize places that express our design achievements as a nation.”