Arch and coffer mosaics

The Concourse Building
100 Adelaide Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
1928, Architects: Baldwin and Greene
Artists: J.E.H. MacDonald, T. MacDonald
H  i  s  t  o  r  y

 

The Concourse is a 16-storey Art Deco building in Toronto's financial district. The Concourse is not 'skyline' Deco with a swank silhouette, but rather a decorated box, a canvas for elegant details. Each side in fact is differently decorated (or undecorated) and can be viewed easily from street level. A 20 second stroll reveals all four sides and the obvious dimensionality of this building -- no mere facade, and certainly no canyon wall. It's a classic 'street corner' building.

Concourse architects Baldwin and Greene were active in office, residential and commercial construction. Their Victory Building (1929) at 80 Adelaide West is an obvious bookend to the Concourse. Another commercial building at 83 Bloor West (1929) was degraded by unworthy fashion-mongers Versace (going out of business as of Feb. 2001) who affixed plastic Palladian over an original and cool Deco. The Claridge apartment house (1927) at 1 Clarendon Avenue is one of the city's most notable. Incidentally, architect Martin Baldwin went on to be director of the Art Gallery of Toronto, now the called the AGO.
          Baldwin and Greene commissioned the Concourse (and the Claridge) decorations from J.E.H. MacDonald and his son Thoreau. MacDonald senior was a painter with the Group of Seven, an accomplished commercial artist and a teacher at the Ontario College of Art. The Group of Seven depicted the city on canvas and brought their touch to many built projects. It was a heady time for the arts in Toronto, with the galleries, schools and commercial art firms in various stages of maturation.

Southern face of Concourse c.1929

 As a speculative skyscraper, the Concourse had to be a looker. Care was taken to build-in recognition value for the benefits of the tenants and the delectation of the locals.
          The mosaics are loaded with thrills, vivid polychromatic depictions of machine and nature. Above the main door is a benevolent, beaming expression of natural and cosmic order -Plato cut generously with a Tarot deck, finessed into a highly visible niche. In the coffer panels of the entrance a wheel with wings appears almost divine as the gold of the wheel becomes a halo. An airplane floats out of its panel as if floating from a movie frame.
          At the time of construction the Concourse was noted as much for its overall stylish appearance as it was for the mosaics. Vertical emphasis of the narrower southern elevation is achieved by allowing piers to shoot uninterrupted from the base to the cornice and beyond, capped with colorful pinnacles. The recessed vertically-oriented windows are collected into horizontal wells of 3 and 4 and 3. Green metal spandrels provide sublimated horizontal strokes and also act as another layer in the three dimensional sinewed play of the facade. A decorated Romanesque arch announces the main door. The three-storey base of artificial stone is molded with decorations. On the Eastern elevation these take a Cubist form as stylized mountains. The palette is one of the best in Toronto: cool yellow, green and grey. The play of the entire Southern and Eastern elevations is very sophisticated. The whole building plays to the corner where these two sides meet.
           The Concourse itself is a mosaic, a concourse of elements, which purposefully integrate together.

 



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