It has become such an accustomed trope to view Viljo Revell's Toronto City Hall and vast, open civic square (1958–65) not only as the symbolic image by which Toronto is recognized but also as representative of its most cherished values that it is possible to forget how remarkable an accomplishment this is for any building and how unlikely an achievement it must have seemed for Toronto in 1958. Like a pair of long pants that a youth may wear upon maturity, Revell designed a city hall that the city might grow into. That Toronto would live up to the promise of its city hall was understood by the competition jurors, who envisioned that the building would mold the city around it even as future surrounding construction would serve as a rectilinear foil for its dynamic, curving forms.

Today, Toronto is one of the world's most vibrant, multicultural cities. But in...

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