City Hall, located at Nathan Phillips Square, is Toronto's fourth city hall built to replace the previous one built in 1899. That building contained a Council Chamber, courtrooms and municipal offices and was designed by Toronto architect Edward James Lennox whose later projects included Casa Loma. When Toronto's current City Hall opened across Bay Street in 1965, Old City Hall became a Provincial courthouse.
The area of City Hall and the civic square was formerly the location of Toronto's Old Chinatown, which was expropriated and bulldozed during the mid-1950s to make way for a new civic building. In 1957, then Mayor Nathan Phillips persuaded the City Council to hold an international design competition for a new City Hall. A total of 520 designs were received from 42 different countries. Out of 8 semifinalists, the winning design selected was from Finnish architect Viljo Revell.
Revell's design consists of three main parts: the podium, convex circular council chamber, mounted on a raised platform, and twin office towers of differing heights with entrances located below that are open to the public. A ramp from the square that connects to the podium roof and leads to the council chamber. The two towers are of unequal height as the east tower is taller than the west. Revell was not registered as an architect in Canada, so the Canadian firm John B. Parkin Associates assisted with the project. Successors to that company still act as consultants on architectural issues affecting the building.
Construction commenced in November 1961, and the building was opened in September 1965 at a final cost of about $31 million (Canadian). Its designer, Viljo Revell, died of a heart attack at age 54, 10 months before the opening ceremonies.
The Toronto City Hall has been featured in films and you might have seen it . . .
- In a 1980 film, The Kidnapping of the President with William Shatner, City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square were the location of a hostage scene.
- In a 2002 film, The Tuxedo, it was "CSA Headquarters."
- In a 2006 film, The Sentinel, an assassination attempt takes place at a Group of Eight summit meeting.
- The 2011 film, Red featured City Hall and various other city locations.