MODERNIST LANDMARK HEADING FOR LANDFILL
In spite of massive public opposition, the Riverdale Hospital will be demolished to make way for a driveway and a future development site upon completion of a new health facility. The Citizens for Riverdale Hospital continues to look for a solution that is a win for all concerned.
The efforts to prevent the demolition of Riverdale Hospital have focused on three areas:
- the lack of due diligence regarding heritage issues (little heritage evaluation has been done on the building despite numerous requests);
- the environmental costs in wasted embodied energy resulting from such a large demolition; and
- planning problems related to permitting public land to be privatized.
No analysis of either the financial costs of retrofit versus demolition or the environmental impacts have been considered.
Why it matters:
Built in 1963, Riverdale Hospital is a large and important example of mid-century Canadian Modernist architecture occupying a striking position on the crown of a hill in Toronto’s Riverdale Park overlooking the Don Valley.
Architects Howard Chapman and Len Hurst used the curved semi-circular design of the Riverdale Hospital on the rectangular shaped lot to maximize patient interaction with the adjacent park. The building showcases many other important modernist architectural elements including a Japanese terrace garden (designed by landscape architect George Tanaka), steel mushroom-shaped canopies, a 600,000-piece Saico glass mosaic (hand-cut and assembled by the Czech-Canadian artist Margit Gatterbauer), exterior walls of multi-coloured Belgian glass, and projecting triangular bay windows—among others. It remains unique when compared to the design of the city’s other institutional buildings.
The building also has the city’s only completely accessible community theatre, allowing the disabled to participate in performances and as audience.
Known for its great aesthetic appeal, the Riverdale is considered a landmark building city-wide. It is also a well-preserved landmark—with all major characteristic elements intact.
Why it’s endangered:
Bridgepoint Health, who owns the building (the City of Toronto owns the land), has determined that it is no longer suitable for hospital uses. Plans have been drawn up for a replacement facility to be built alongside the Riverdale.
Bridgepoint Health has submitted applications for rezoning and official plan amendments that will facilitate the demolition of Riverdale Hospital. All have been approved by the City of Toronto.
Although two engineering studies (Yolles Engineers and Perkins Eastman Black Architects, both in 2001) have determined that it is structurally sound and well-maintained and adaptable to new uses, the Riverdale Hospital will be demolished to make way for a driveway and a future development site upon completion of the new facility.
Where things stand:
Architect Jon Van Nostrand evaluated the building and determined it could be renovated to create 200 much needed housing units, ideal for students, seniors or nurses. Other uses that have been proposed include administrative offices for Bridgepoint Health, medical offices and community facilities. None of these uses has been considered by the building owners.
Concerned citizens, architects, environmentalists and heritage advocates formed the “Citizens for Riverdale Hospital” group. The Architectural Conservancy of Ontario supported the efforts of the group in their unsuccessful Ontario Municipal Board appeal of the hospital plans in the fall of 2007.
This nomination was submitted by the Toronto branch of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario.
Update: In October, 2013, the “Half-Round” Riverdale Hospital was demolished to make way for the new Bridgepoint Health Centre.
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Top 10 Endangered Places List: 2008