Reasons to Love Toronto: No. 14, because there’s beauty in this beast
In a city overrun with delicate glass towers, 222 Jarvis is an oddity. The hulking, inverted ziggurat, opened in 1971 as Simpsons-Sears’ Canadian headquarters, is a prime example of Toronto’s brief affair with brutalist architecture. It oozes testosterone, and it’s hard to love: the dark brick seems to glower. Which is why it was such a surprise that the province, after buying the building from Sears in 2007, didn’t simply rip it down, like so many of the city’s 20th-century follies. Instead, Queen’s Park chose to improve what was there, undertaking an ambitious green retrofit scheduled to be completed later this year. The revamped structure includes rainwater harvesting, occupancy sensors, extensive bicycle storage and a dramatic, oversized skylight that pours light through nine storeys of open-plan offices. The price of the job—an estimated $100 million—was rationalized, in the way only bureaucrats can, as a cost-saving measure, since it will house staff from four ministries who were previously working inefficiently in 19 offices around the city. Had the scheme been proposed in the current era of belt-tightening, the city would likely have one less icon.