Over his almost six-decade career, architect Jerome Markson has left his mark on Toronto and in the field.
Markson is the recipient of the 2022 Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s (RAIC) Gold Medal, the highest honour the institute can bestow in recognition of a significant and lasting contribution to Canadian architecture.
“Markson’s work reveals his lifelong commitment to humanism, inclusivity and generosity, teaching us valuable lessons about urban housing and its critical relationship to city building,” state the jury’s comments. “His work epitomizes a deep caring towards those who will use and enjoy his projects as well as the communities in which they exist. Many architects will offer praise by referring to colleagues as an ‘architect’s architect.’ Jerome Markson is certainly deserving of the title ‘planner’s architect’ – quite possibly a more difficult and exceptional achievement within the profession.”
Markson, now in his 90s, was born in Toronto in 1929 to immigrant parents from Lithuania and Poland. The family lived near Kensington Market. Growing up in the city had a big impact on Markson’s career, he told the Daily Commercial News.
“I am a Torontonian born and bred and I went to school here in Toronto,” he said.
“The important thing is making good places for people to live, work in and enjoy their lives.”
After the Second World War, Markson, a Jewish-Canadian, began studying architecture at the University of Toronto in 1948.
“The first year of school, not long after the Second World War, there were so many students coming from the war back to Canada that there wasn’t room in the university here downtown, so our first year was in another place out of town,” said Markson.
The summer before his last year of architecture school he attended the Cranbrook Academy of Art in the United States where he met his wife Mayta Silver, a ceramic artist from Winnipeg who was also studying at the school. The couple got married after Markson graduated from the University of Toronto in 1953 and have been together for 65 years. They always made time to travel and see architecture in other parts of the world, he said.
Markson began his practice during a time of transformation after the war.
At the beginning of his career he worked for Eugene G. Faludi; James Murray; George Robb; and Venchiarutti & Venchiarutti before opening his own practice called Jerome Markson Architect in 1955.
“When you graduated from architecture in those days you had to spend several years working for other architects and then you got your papers to be an architect in Ontario,” he explained. “I started pretty early on my own.”
Markson is well known for his work on private houses, such as the Moses House in Hamilton but also other buildings such as the David B. Archer Co-operative in Toronto; True Davidson Metro Home for the Aged in Toronto; medical buildings such as The Group Health Centre in Sault Ste. Marie; and cultural and community buildings such as The Frederick Horseman Varley Art Gallery of Markham and the Cedarvale Community Centre in Toronto. He describes his style as contemporary.
“I started out doing private houses for individual clients in Hamilton and around the city and in the countryside and then I got interested in housing,” he said. “This became an important part of my work.”
Markson practiced as Jerome Markson Architect until 2015. He said he was never interested in having a large firm and he would take on projects of all sizes. There were two instances in his career when he partnered with others: Ronji Borooah from 1992 to 2005 and Ernie Hodgson from 1992 to 1999.
Although he had a successful career, there were some ups and downs.
“You might have some really good and successful years and then suddenly there is no work for architects,” he said. “That happened twice very seriously for our firm and we just kept going.”
Laura Miller, associate professor of architecture with the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design wrote a book on Markson entitled Toronto’s Inclusive Modernity: The Architecture of Jerome Markson.
In terms of accolades, Markson’s work has received over 50 design awards throughout his career. He is a Fellow of the RAIC, a recipient of the Toronto Society of Architects DaVinci Award, the University of Toronto Arbor Award, and the Ontario Association of Architects Lifetime Design Achievement Award. His work has been published in a number of publications and he has sat on juries and awards committees, such as the jury for Mississauga City Hall. He also led the Toronto Society of Architects.
Markson provided some words of advice for those thinking about pursuing a career in architecture.
“It takes maximum involvement and thought and keeping up with changing times.
“You have to have that passion to be involved in making the world a better place.”
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