It’s not just you – more buildings in Toronto really have gone modern. The clean lines, high-tech materials, and neutral colours that define the modern aesthetic have become more timeless as time goes on, and “modernism” in the architectural sense has developed a following all its own.
To what can we attribute this trend? Well, one influence may be Mad Men. The award-winning AMC drama series pays meticulous attention to mid-century modern fashion and design, and the results of its popularity are visible everywhere from boutiques to antique stores to interior design shows. Mid-century modern is simply everywhere, so it’s no surprise that it would arrive on the architectural scene, too. Designers are advocating for cottages and other vacation properties to take on a more modern edge as a method of saving space and energy.
So, how did this trend begin? As a design movement, modernism’s history is more complicated than you might think. The distinctively American look that came to be synonymous with modern design was actually influenced by Jewish designers fleeing Germany during the Third Reich. The stars of American design during this period, such as Saul Bass, George Nelson, Anni Albers and others, were either immigrants or second-generation Americans whose parents and families fled the tyranny of Nazism – tyranny that extended to the art world and ranked modern art as “degenerate.”
Examples of Toronto modernism are all over town. The Wolf House is one of the best known, because its designer Barton Myers received the Architectural Record House of the Year Award for Wolf House in 1977. Even with its more recent design updates and upgrades, the house was still the Toronto Life House of the Week in November 2012, when it was represented by Donna and Nick Thompson of Harvey Kalles Real Estate.
Another example is this luxury studio outfitted with a more modern redesign to help it function as a working and living space. Thanks to an update from Wonder Inc. and architect Anthony Provenzano, it now features a green rooftop and more sustainable materials.
No discussion of Toronto’s modernist trend would be complete without mentioning Superkül, designers of some of Toronto’s most eye-catching properties. From the SPLIT House to SHIFT Cottage, Superkül is doing some of the most exciting design work in Toronto and the GTA to date.
So, the next time you think of a modern re-design for your home, don’t worry about how it will date. In truth, it may turn out to be more timeless and classic than you can imagine.