The Australian architect helped design the CN Tower and other iconic structures

From left to right, landscape architect Michael Hough, architect John Andrews and urban planner Michael Hugo-Brunt with a model section of Scarborough College.Jack Marshall/University of Toronto Archives

Among the giants of post-war Canadian architecture, one of the boldest turns out to be an expatriate Australian. John Andrews, who spent his early career years in Toronto, made his mark with the CN Tower, Scarborough College and other iconic structures in the 1960s and early 1970s. Although he spent the last half of his long life in his native country, where he died on March 24 at the age of 88, he illustrated how an immigrant could help define the country’s contemporary identity.

“What he brought to Canada was a new sense of the value of human modern architecture,” says George Kapelos, professor of architecture at Ryerson University. “Its iconic buildings represent an ideal of bringing people together, in a way that would spark conversations, interactions and connections.”

John Hamilton Andrews was born on October 29, 1933 and received his Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Sydney. He then crossed the ocean to study at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. While still a student, he made his mark leading a team and three other classmates who entered the international competition to design Toronto’s new city hall. Their distinctive low-rise pitched-roof proposal beat out hundreds of competitors to reach the shortlist of just eight finalists. “He was very progressive in his view of the world, of how you could meaningfully engage audiences,” says Professor Kapelos, author of a book about the 1958 contest.

Although Mr. Andrews ultimately lost out to Finnish architect Viljo Revell, his shortlisted proposal impressed Toronto firm John B. Parkin & Associates, the local architects of the New City Hall project, and they offered him a job. as lead designer in their Toronto office. Office. In 1958, newly married to the former Rosemary Randall, with whom he would have four children, he left a dilapidated house on Cape Cod for his new life in Toronto.

It turned out that Mr. Andrews played a significant role in the creation of Toronto’s new city hall after all, when Parkin & Associates was hired as a local company to carry out Mr. Revell’s proposal. But Mr Andrews – a rude, swaggering and outspoken Australian – found the Parkin environment pretentious, impersonal and far too rigidly hierarchical.

After leaving Toronto in 1961 for an architectural pilgrimage to Europe, Mr. Andrews returned six months later and started his own namesake business. He also began teaching in the Department of Architecture at the University of Toronto, and in 1967 became its director. Although unable to devote himself full-time to his post at the University of Toronto, he played a key role in its evolution by recruiting Peter Prangnell to his faculty and then as his successor as head of the school, giving it a more student-centered orientation. “He knew Peter had a humanistic pedagogy,” says George Baird, professor emeritus and former dean of the school, now known as the John H. Daniels School of Architecture, Landscape and Design.

In 1963, through his position at the University of Toronto, Mr. Andrews won his first major construction commission: Scarborough College, the university’s satellite campus. Bisected by a jagged interior hallway lit by a skylight and topped by a 60-foot-tall chimney, it garnered international attention upon completion, including a cover story and four-page spread in Time magazine. The sculptural concrete skyscraper, along with many other landmark projects by Mr. Andrews, will be featured in the monograph John Andrews: Architect of Uncommon Sensewhich will be published later this year by Harvard University Press.

Scarborough College’s accolades earned him a plethora of commissions, including student residences for the new University of Guelph and Brock University, and the Weldon Library for the University of Western Ontario. He also designed Gund Hall, the 1971 home of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, which, along with Scarborough College, tends to be cited by critics and fellow architects as his most important work.

And yet, the project that has become most famous among ordinary Canadians is not a building but a telecommunications structure: the CN Tower, which Mr. Andrews helped design in collaboration with WZMH Architects and a brilliant team of engineers. Moreover, neither the design team nor the critics particularly admired the tower when it was completed in 1975. The main problem was that Mr. Andrews had designed the tower as an integrated element in a complex planned transformation of the Chemins grounds. National Railways along the lake into a huge mixed-use development called Metro Centre. Plagued by logistical problems and infighting, the Metro Center project collapsed, except for the CN Tower. Mr Andrews then returned to Australia, and the design of the tower had to be modified by others to help the structure fit into its surprisingly empty urban context.

The implosion of the Metro Center project was one of the factors that prompted Mr Andrews to return to Australia. “Common sense” was one of his mantras, and he lamented what he saw as the lack of it among city and transit officials. “For example, if you don’t put the bloody underground under rapid transit and you have a connection between the two, it won’t work. One station over there, one over there, and one over there will not work,” he wrote in a 1982 monograph of his work.

But even deprived of its intended context, the CN Tower became an instant and beloved landmark for locals and tourists alike. For more than 30 years, its 553-meter-high conical concrete shaft, surrounded by two circular observation decks, was the tallest free-standing structure in the world.

In 1974 Mr Andrews returned to his native Australia, now revered as the first Australian architect to achieve international fame. He went on to build important structures in his native land and was awarded the Royal Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 1980. But throughout his life he continued to lament the lack of common sense in the way whose buildings are constructed. Reflecting on the Scarborough College project 20 years after it opened, he railed against the building committee’s aversion to providing comfortable seating for students. “The University insisted on something non-slashable,” he wrote in his 1982 monograph. “Finally, the University agreed that the majority of people, even students, didn’t carve furniture.” He concluded this passage with an observation that could be one of the key aphorisms of his life: “Like everyone else, students are reasonably competent to look after the possessions they love, so long as others do not surround them no meaningless, humiliating rules.”

A list of Mr Andrews’ survivors was not available.

Dan Goodwin climbs outside the CN Tower in Toronto, June 26, 1986.John McNeill/The Globe and Mail

About Raymond A. Bentley

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