Take a 5-stop walking tour around the University of Toronto and Queen’s Park, home to some of Toronto’s most compelling architecture and design.
Queen’s Park is a crossroads of the city, a place where culture, education, history, politics, and recreation all blend into each other. For architecture buffs, walking along Queen’s Park from College to Bloor streets provides a visual feast of buildings and styles that reflect the many elements of the area.
A good starting point is the intersection of College Street and Queen’s Park Avenue, right outside Queen’s Park subway station.
Stop #1: Queen’s Park
On the southwest side, you’ll see the 1970s glass curve of the Ontario Power Building (700 University Ave.), while the southeast corner offers the hybrid of MaRS Discovery District (101 College St.), which combines the Georgian revivalism of a former wing of Toronto General Hospital with a series of 21st-century towers.
Heading north on the east side of Queen’s Park Crescent, take in the front side of the Ontario Legislative Assembly building (111 Wellesley St. W.), the seat of the provincial government since 1893. Architectural historian Patricia McHugh says that, along with Old City Hall, this Richardsonian Romanesque gem “carried Toronto out of the small-town category architecturally and gave the city the imprimatur of an urban metropolis.” Especially on a sunny day, its red sandstone exterior is a stunning sight.
Look east to see a series of government office complexes which architecturally reflect the eras in which they were built, from the Gothic art deco skyscraper of the Whitney Block (23 Queen’s Park Cres. E.) to the modernist curving line of the south Frost Building (7 Queen’s Park Cres. E.) mirroring the crescent.
Stop #2: University of Toronto campus
Crossing Wellesley Street takes you into the eastern portion of the University of Toronto campus, starting with Regis College (100 Wellesley St. W.), a late 19th-century mansion originally owned by the Christie family. As you reach the northern curve of Queen’s Park Crescent, take a side stroll into the heart of Victoria College (73 Queen’s Park Cres.). Its centrepiece is “Old Vic,” the imposing main Richardsonian Romanesque building completed in the early 1890s that screams old academia.
Stop #3: Bloor Street Cultural Corridor
Back on Queen’s Park, just north of Charles Street is the Gardiner Museum (111 Queen’s Park). Opened in 1984, the museum was expanded and given a new exterior of glass and limestone in the mid-2000s. The materials were inspired by the stone finish of its next-door neighbour, the neoclassical Lillian Massey Building (125 Queen’s Park), which houses university offices and a Club Monaco store.
At Bloor Street, cross over to the west side of Queen’s Park and the Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queen’s Park). Daniel Libeskind’s controversial Michael Lee-Chin Crystal wing, which opened in 2007, still generates plenty of argument over its design. Heading south along Queen’s Park, take in the museum’s 1930s former eastern entrance and its mix of art deco and Neo-Byzantine influences.
Continuing south, just before Hoskin Avenue, you’ll encounter the contrasting buildings of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law. Flavelle House (78 Queen’s Park Cres. W.), originally known as Holwood, was the mansion of businessman Sir Joseph Flavelle, and, like Regis College, calls back to an era when grand homes lined the crescent. It is attached to the Jackman Law Building (78 Queen’s Park), completed in 2016, which stands out with its nickel and glass fins.
Stop #4: More of the University of Toronto campus
Dip briefly down Hoskin Avenue to take a full look on the north side at U of T’s Trinity College (6 Hoskin Ave.). Built as a replica of the original Trinity College building (now the site of Trinity-Bellwoods Park) when it moved over to the main campus in 1925, its design evokes the great British universities. On the south side, the rich red brick of Wycliffe College (5 Hoskin Ave.) fits in the Richardsonian Romanesque style of the Ontario Legislature and Old Vic.
Stop #5: Queen’s Park, revisited
Back on Queen’s Park Crescent, you may choose to head into Queen’s Park itself to take in the recent landscaping work or stroll the grounds of the legislative assembly. You can also continue south along the crescent, ending at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy building (144 College St.) designed by British architect Norman Foster, which comes to illuminated life at night.