Diamond Schmitt shines in Toronto

Nick Myall
Thursday 17 May 2018

Diamond Schmitt Architects have been recognised for their outstanding contribution to Canadian architecture

The Metropolitan Toronto Central YMCA, designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects, is this year’s recipient of the Prix du XXe siècle, an award that recognizes outstanding contribution to Canadian architecture of 20th century design.

The prize, presented by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) and Heritage Canada The National Trust, celebrates design quality and enduring excellence. The award can recognize a building in Canada designed by an architect from any country, or a building anywhere in the world designed by a Canadian architect.

Completed in 1984, the Central Y is the flagship of the YMCA in Toronto. The 14,400-square-metre (155,000 sf) facility allowed the organization to continue its tradition of leadership and service to inner-city residents while responding to the lifestyle and cultural needs of a growing downtown population. The Central Y is considered one of the most successful in the world, with the highest membership utilization, according to metrics of YMCA International.

The distinct program, articulated in five building types – each with its own functional and architectural form – is unified by spacious, logical and exciting circulation routes that reveal all major program areas and encourage public passage through the building.

A distinguished three-member jury selected it “not only for its remarkable design qualities but also for its generous stance as a welcoming urban neighbour and humanist intervention in the heart of downtown Toronto.”

The facility includes a full recreational complex with two swimming pools, double gymnasium, racquet courts, a dance studio, indoor and rooftop running tracks, a 300-seat multi-use auditorium and day care centre. A defining feature is the Athletes’ Stair, which connects all levels under a linear skylight. 

“Recognition for designing one of the best buildings of the 20th century is an honour and validation for the design principles we maintain to this day,” said Donald Schmitt, Principal, Diamond Schmitt Architects.

The RAIC jury noted the building’s condition is in extremely good shape today. “This is a testament to the robust execution of the architecture, especially surprising given the number of users throughout the building,” said the jury.

On revisiting the Central Y thirty years after first reviewing the design for Canadian Architect magazine, Larry Wayne Richards wrote in 2015 for the same publication, “Attention to the circulation armature of a building was (and still is) among Diamond Schmitt’s most admirable traits. They understand circulation as an opportunity for social engagement.”

The presentation of the Prix du XXe siècle will take place at the RAIC Festival of Architecture in St. John, New Brunswick on June 1st.

Nick Myall

News editor

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