Today, we’re sharing our favorite brutalist designs in Toronto, its City Hall. Built in 1958, the city launched a competition for a “futuristic” design. Finnish architect, Viljo Revell, won that competition and designed two curved tall towers, each a different height (20 & 27 stories) that seem to cradle the council chamber, which, honestly, looks a bit like a spaceship. It’s so interesting how designs of this era, even today, feel so old and dated yet futuristic in some way. A unique combination to be sure.
Brutalist architecture, with all its concrete, can often feel so cold and oppressive. The curves in this space, at least, soften the harder nature of this. The towers, the council chamber and even the walkway and arches that reach over the plaza are all curvy.
As for photographing this space, wide and mid-range perspectives seem to work best. The same could be said for types of lenses that are best to use – wide (14-24mm range) and mid-range (24-70mm range). Starting from the plaza looking toward the towers or neighboring buildings you can get some great layers.
Adding a human element really gives a sense of scale to this space!
If you want to try out a telephoto (70-200mm or more) from the plaza you can really compress the elements from the plaza to the towers, which really showcases the contrast in curves vs. the grid-like lines.
Here the leading lines of the walkway, plus including a natural element soften up the space.
Moving our way to the towers and chamber, this is a great area for lookups. Something as simple as focusing on the lines vs curves along with reflections of the adjacent tower & clouds. Lots of great contrasts here: warm vs cool, lines vs curves, nature vs manmade.
Between the towers, you can see more great contrasts between the curvy tower and the angular edge of the second tower. And if you get close to one of the buildings you get some pretty nice reflections and a more dramatic viewpoint.
Brutalist architecture is often seen in black & white. Something about its harshness lends itself well to this type of processing, especially on gray days like below. However, it looks pretty amazing in color when the skies are a vibrant blue. Don’t you think?
You can also focus solely on the curves. Here one of the towers + the chamber. A sunburst is an added bonus!
Even on sunny days, dramatic black & white post-processing, a slightly angled perspective and the contrast between shaded & lit areas make for a strong image.