An exhibition titled "Building a Community — Estonian Architects in Post-War Toronto," organized by the Museum of Estonian Architecture in collaboration with the Museum of Estonians Abroad, was recently opened in Toronto.
The exhibition is dedicated to Estonian architects who immigrated to Canada during and after World War II. It opened with a thematic symposium featuring speakers including curator Jarmo Kauge, Estonian Academy of Arts rector Mart Kalm as well as local architectural experts.
The result of many years of research, the exhibition focuses primarily on architects born in Estonia whose careers or studies in Europe were interrupted by the war as well as those who earned their architecture qualifications at Canadian universities in the following decades. It was during this postwar period that Toronto rapidly grew into the multicultural metropolis that it is today, and Estonian architects were among those who played an important role in shaping Toronto's architectural landscape.
Names such as Mihkem (Michael) Bach (1916-1972), Ants Elken (1917-2011), Uno Prii (1924-2000), Elmar Tampõld (1920-2013), Taivo Kapsi (1935-1967) and Henno Sillaste (1936-2013) are recognized in Toronto, the fourth largest city in North America, and their work is well known in architecture circles.
Prii's work has been particularly successful as new generations discover the energetic modernism of his work from the 1960s and 70s, and prime examples of architecture by Prii and Kapsi alike are under heritage protection.
Bach, Elken and Kapsi, who all taught at the University of Toronto, played an important role in the spread of Scandinavian-style modernism in Toronto's urban landscape, which was still fairly provincial following World War II. Elken's 30-year university career was also crowned by his being awarded an emeritus professorship. His first work, the first stage of the now-demolished Seaway Hotel, was awarded the prestigious Massey Silver Medal in 1955.
A chapter of its own in Toronto's architectural history includes the buildings designed by Estonians for the local Estonian diaspora community. These include St. Peter's Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church of Toronto, Tartu College, the Toronto Estonian House as well as a number of cooperative residences and care homes for the elderly.
The exhibition will remain at the Museum of Estonians Abroad, located at Tartu College (310 Bloor St. W, Toronto), through Feb. 12, 2018. During spring, an amended form of the exhibition will travel to the Museum of Estonian Architecture in Tallinn. A substantial catalog and collection of essays is planned to be published in time for the exhibition's run in Estonia.
The exhibition "Building a Community — Estonian Architects in Post-War Toronto" is supported by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia, the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research, the Integration Foundation and the Esotnian Ministry of Culture.