Skip to Content
View site list


Pre-Bid Projects

Pre-Bid Projects

Click here to see Canada’s most comprehensive listing of projects in conceptual and planning stages


Architects rise to defend Ontario Science Centre

Don Wall
Architects rise to defend Ontario Science Centre
OSC FACEBOOK - Ontario Premier Doug Ford has announced that the Ontario Science Centre on Don Mills Road will be demolished to make way for new housing.

“Shocked” and “horrified” are among the reactions Ontario architectural stakeholders and average citizens are expressing in response to the Ontario government’s plan to demolish the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto.

On April 18, while announcing new plans for Ontario Place, Premier Doug Ford called the 53-year-old Science Centre “tired” and said a smaller version at Ontario Place would be built as part of the redevelopment of the waterfront park.

The science centre, located on Don Mills Road in northeast Toronto, will be razed to make way for new housing, Ford said.

On April 25, Ford seemingly changed his tone, instead commenting about putting a school or community centre on the current east Toronto site.

“I have to use words that are quotable. I’m horrified,” said Diane Chin, chair of the board of directors of Architecture Conservancy Ontario (ACO).

Architect Joel Leon, programming director for the Toronto Society of Architects (TSA), said Ford’s statement took the society by surprise.

“It’s a very significant building. And it seems like we are in a crucial point, again, in our history here in Ontario, where we have to work quite hard to preserve buildings that maybe sometimes are a bit misunderstood or need a little bit of work to bring them back to their full life.”

The science centre was designed by revered Toronto architect Raymond Moriyama in the Brutalist style and opened in September 1969. The style was named for the French Beton brut school and is characterized by minimalist design and construction intended to showcase materials and express the form of the building.

Chin noted it was Moriyama’s first large-scale project and he incorporated Confucian philosophies into its design.

Immediately upon entrance, Chin said, it becomes clear that elements such as exposed slabs of concrete and large cables are intended to highlight structural elements and assist in the interactive science experience.

“That’s why it’s become significant, firstly as a learning tool,” she said.

Moriyama is now in his 90s and retired from the firm he co-founded, Moriyama Teshima. A spokesperson for the firm said neither Moriyama nor his son Jason, a principal at the firm, were available to comment but the firm issued a statement asserting, “The Ontario Science Centre is a landmark building, purposefully nestled into the natural ravine of the Don Valley, where it has succeeded in bringing that joyful study to the masses for over 50 years.

“If there is a need for the science centre to modernize and evolve, the goal should be to regenerate it in a way that builds on its heritage, celebrates its unique architecture, and restores its commitment as an amenity to its neighbourhood.”

Most, but not all, comments online criticized the premier. One Twitter correspondent stated, “I say with much pride that my father was on the design team with Mr. Moriyama in the late ‘60s when the OSC was born. I am just disgusted and heartbroken that a building like this that is suited so well into the ecology/environ can just be dozed.”

Chin and Leon noted Ford’s “tired” description reflects the neglect the science centre has endured in recent times.

“The reason it is tired and in a bad state of repair is because it has been abandoned by the Ontario government,” said Chin. “They have done nothing with it for quite a long period of time, and so it has fallen into disrepair. Both of the bridges that connect the first level to the exhibit levels are structurally unsound.

“It’s just a case of almost demolition by neglect, a term that we often use in the heritage world.”

The Ontario government announced plans for a new Science
ONTARIO GOVERNMENT – The Ontario government announced plans for a new Science  Discovery destination as part of the revamped Ontario Place.

In calling on the government to reconsider its plans, a TSA statement signed by its chair Ana-Francisca de la Mora listed architectural significance, sustainability, placemaking and lack of consultation as reasons the Ford government should reverse its decision.

“While our city and province have an urgent need for housing, this should not come at the expense of cultural institutions and community spaces which are essential for the health of neighbourhoods,” said the TSA.

The TSA also stated, “Should the province proceed with moving the Ontario Science Centre, the existing structure should be reused and adapted to new uses that continue to serve the community.”

Chin and Leon also note the centre was built into the side of the ravine.

Former MPP Peter Milczyn said on Twitter, “The main part of the science centre is actually built in the valley where you would not be permitted to build housing. The bulk of where new housing can be built is the parking lots along Don Mills Road. You could (build) thousands of apartments and retain most if not all of the OSC.”

Neither the TSA nor the ACO have fully explored whether there are any legal options for opponents to pursue but they say they will support organized advocacy.

“At the end of the day, the science centre is owned by the province,” said Leon.

“What more can we do other than sway politicians by showing them that we all really want the science centre to stay there…that at the very least that building should remain, and then be converted to new uses.

“So no, just demolition should never be the option.”

Follow the author on Twitter @DonWall_DCN.

Recent Comments (1 comments)

comments for this post are closed

William Conway Image William Conway

I couldn’t agree more with Diane Chin. What’s happened to the Ontario Science Centre is indeed “demolition by neglect”. Sound familiar? Look no further than what’s happening to health care and education in Ontario. Privatization by neglect.


You might also like