Metropolitan Central YMCA

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Metropolitan Central YMCA

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Metropolitan Central YMCA
The Metropolitan Central YMCA after completion. Photo by Fiona Spalding-Smith

Larry Wayne Richards revisits Diamond Schmitt Architects’ Metropolitan Central YMCA in downtown Toronto

My first visit to Toronto was in 1972 when, as a young professor, I brought a group of architecture students from sleepy Indiana to progressive Canada, to see “real cities” and bold new works of architecture such as Moshe Safdie’s Habitat, Eberhard Zeidler’s Ontario Place, John Andrews’ Scarborough College, and Diamond and Myers’ York Square.

On that trip, the students and I stayed at the Young Men’s Christian Association on College Street, near Bay. Completed in 1912, it was a no-nonsense structure by Toronto architects Burke Horwood & White. All that solidity came tumbling down in 1985 when the aging Y was demolished to make way for a grandiose Postmodern police headquarters.

That same year, the new Metropolitan Central YMCA opened two blocks to the north on Grosvenor Street. Well before the ribbon was cut, it was heralded by Vancouver architect Bruno Freschi as “world-class architecture” when in 1982, he and fellow jurors gave it a Canadian Architect Award of Excellence for its design.

The Y was authored by Jack Diamond and Donald Schmitt, when their firm had about 15 people. Now Diamond Schmitt Architects is an international practice with 170 people. The firm has completed projects in 14 countries on four continents. Looking back, the YMCA is a small modest project that could easily be “just one more” on Diamond Schmitt’s long project list. But this is not the case: the Y continues to endure, resonate and inspire. […]

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