The Globe and Mail: How to bring a Brutalist public building back to life

Sunday May 23, 2021

What does heritage look like?

In Toronto, you might immediately suggest a gabled Victorian house. You would not, probably, think of the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. Built in 1970, this Brutalist complex in the downtown is a legacy of the Centennial boom in Canadian culture. Now it is beat-up and unloved. The public agency that runs it wants to tear down the 70,000-square-foot building and replace it.

Tura Cousins Wilson has a better idea. I asked the architect, a partner in the talented young firm SOCA Design, for his view on the building – he thinks the centre deserves to be saved, and came up with a design to renovate and expand it. “Can a contemporary arts institution reimagine itself, without purging the past?” he asks.

The answer is yes. Mr. Cousins Wilson’s design provides a model of how we should be approaching Modernist public buildings: with a critical eye and creativity about how to renovate and build on them.

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