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Globe and Mail: Peter Dickinson at Centennial College
Dave LeBlanc | April 1, 2018

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Dickinsonian vibe still alive at Centennial College's Story Arts Centre

From Issue No. 267 | April 1, 2018

British architect Peter Dickinson design for the building is lively, with turquoise and chartreuse spandrel panels throughout and a butterfly roof for a simple tool shed.

British architect Peter Dickinson’s design is lively, with turquoise and chartreuse spandrel panels throughout the building and a butterfly roof for a simple tool shed. 


They're just a series of interlocking hoops and a few balls – likely meant to represent electrons and their orbits – held aloft by a swoopy arch over a reflecting pool, but they represent so much more.
The ball-and-hoops sculpture, designed by Peter Dickinson, was reproduced when the original rusted out

It was "a very optimistic time in North America, nuclear power, the war was over, things were changing for the better," agrees Nate Horowitz, dean and campus principal of Centennial College's Story Arts Centre, where the sculpture has sat since 1954. But it also shows the commitment the college has demonstrated to one of Toronto's almost-forgotten Modernist gems, which they took over in 1978.

Built as the Toronto Teacher's College, the design for both sculpture and building was penned by Peter Dickinson, a larger-than-life, British expat who chain-smoked and partied his way into the hearts of the postwar city before his untimely death in 1961. Indeed, his was the only architect's mug featured in Toronto '59, the booklet that commemorated the city's 125th anniversary. Mr. Dickinson, as aficionados know, was one of a handful of unlikely heroes who reset the staid course – or perhaps turned it upside down and vigourously shook it – of Toronto architecture. Raise in London, where he'd worked on a water feature for the Festival of Britain after graduation from the prestigious Architectural Association, Mr. Dickinson arrived in 1950 ready to build the future.

As chief designer at Page and Steele, he'd began with the Yolles and Rotenberg Building at 111 Richmond St. W. (designed 1950, opened 1954; recently restored and now home to Google), and Benvenuto Place Apartments for the Yolles family in 1951. By 1952, at the tender age of 26, he'd sketch out the Teacher's College as a long rectangle with a quadrangle for a tight, residential site at 951 Carlaw Ave. He'd place a flying, boisterous concrete canopy over the front door and dress it in a rhythmic curtain wall on both the street-facing and the quad-facing façades. And to really make the composition dance, he'd curve one of the quad's walls inward, randomly place turquoise and chartreuse spandrel panels throughout and give a simple tool shed a butterfly roof.
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