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Robarts Library, Downtown

Robarts Library, the 1973-built brutalist brainchild of firm Mathers & Haldenby, is a gargantuan 14-storey block of concrete that houses the University of Toronto’s book collection. Despite its hard appearance it has a rather soft nickname – the Peacock – thanks to the resemblance it bears to the bird. The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library forms the body, with the main building appearing as a fanned-out tail. Umberto Eco, the Italian author of The Name of the Rose, was thought to have used Robarts as the model for the library depicted in his book.

130 St George Street, M5S 1A5
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Dog Fountain, Berczy Park

Toronto isn’t a city known for the playfulness of its public spaces but the golden bone atop the Victorian-styled cast-iron fountain in Berczy Park could be a sign that things are changing. Staring hungrily up at the bone are a boxer, a St Bernard and some pugs: hand-painted statues with jets of water spraying from their mouths, which converge gracefully at the fountain’s apex. The somewhat absurd fountain is the centrepiece of the recently renovated park, as conceived by landscape architect Claude Cormier on a tight triangular plot on the east side of Toronto’s downtown. 

35 Wellington St E, M5E 1C6
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Toronto City Hall, Queen Street West

The astonishing, telenovela-like saga of the Rob Ford mayoralty wasn’t the way that most Torontonians would have chosen to receive global headlines. But they might have secretly enjoyed seeing their iconic city hall, the stage for many of Ford’s follies, so prominently on display.

It is said that the design by Finnish architect Viljo Revell was almost consigned to the scrap heap. Initially rejected by the other judges overseeing the design competition, Revell’s model was plucked from the discard pile by Eero Saarinen. Two sculptural towers of different heights cradle the flying saucer-like structure that houses the council chambers and seems to hover above a two-storey plinth. At the time of the structure’s inauguration people were a little unsure what to make of its avant-garde design but as Toronto’s confidence has surged they’ve come to embrace Revell’s building as the symbol of their city.

100 Queen Street West, M5H 2N2

Images: Alamy

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  • The Curator