8 Architectural Highlights In Toronto & Montreal

by | 23. Jun 2014


Canada always has been and always will be a country of two cultures, that of the English-speaking and that of the French-speaking people. And no two cities represent this clash of cultures like Montreal and Toronto. However, the tension between the English and French culture creates a cultural energy that gives each city its own very unique appeal.


In Montreal, Toronto is often sarcastically referred to as ‘New York run by the Swiss’. However, seeing as Toronto remains not only the most populous, but also the most visited city in Canada, it sounds a lot like sibling rivalry. But the comparison is warranted. Toronto’s plain grid of straight streets in two general directions does bear a striking resemblance to the Manhattan grid – although spanning an area 10 times the size.

And clearly, Toronto shares New York’s skyscraper obsession. From the early 1900s, steel skyscrapers started to spring up in Toronto’s central district and today, the high-rise clearly dominates the Toronto skyline. They can be found not only in the central business district, but also in residential apartment masses and in the office towers lining the main intersections and subway stations.

But this collation of capitalist construction does have its draws, such as one of the world’s tallest freestanding structures, the CN Tower. And more recently, a number of noteworthy and eccentric additions – such as Libeskind’s controversial extension to the Royal Ontario Museum, which opened in 2007 – has diversified the city’s otherwise rather unembellished building mass.

Michael Lee-Chin Crystal by Daniel Libeskind in Toronto, Canada. Photo © Royal Ontario Museum
Michael Lee-Chin Crystal
Daniel Libeskind

Ryerson Image Centre by Diamond Schmitt Architects in Toronto, Canada Photo: Tom Arban
Ryerson Image Centre
Diamond Schmitt Architects

AGO - Art Gallery of Ontario - by Gehry Partners, LLP, in Toronto, Canada Photo: Thomas Mayer
Gehry Partners, LLP

Sharp Centre for Design Photo: Richard Johnson/Interior Images
Sharp Centre for Design
Alsop Architects

Montreal, on the other hand, is in all respects more European with its narrow cobbled streets and characteristic low-rise rowhouses. It is without a doubt more instantly lovable, a place with European atmosphere and North American poise.

Canada’s second largest city was the most populated city in Canada for about a century and a half. Since the 60s, however – when Montreal was surpassed in both population and economic strength by Toronto – the city have been trying to keep up with a rapid downtown expansion that has led to a remodelling of parts of the city. Many buildings with historical value were demolished, old residential areas were radically altered and thousands of low-income residents were displaced.

A walking tour of the Old Port reveals many chapters of the city’s evolution. It features architecture from the 17th century to the 20th century, often right next to each other. Here’s a few significant 21th century additions.

Claire & Marc Bourgie Pavilion
Provencher Roy + Associés

Scandinave Les Bains
Saucier + Perrotte

Faculty of Music
Saucier + Perrotte

Palais des Congrès by Tétreault Dubuc Saia et associés in Montréal, Québec, Canada. Exterior color faade Photo: Marc Cramer
Palais des Congrès
Tétreault Dubuc Saia et associés