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Canadian Architect

Leslie Jen
February 2011 | Canadian Architect p.g 18-23

See the Light

A new home for the Toronto International Film Festival
incorporates a diverse and engaging program,
invigorating the city's bustling entertainment district.

Toronto is perhaps finally emerging from a prolonged adolescence towards something resembling a world-class city, the success of which is due largely to recent architectural transformations in the city’s core. Landmarks such as the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, and the Royal Ontario Museum have achieved varying degrees of success and/or notoriety, but have nonetheless contributed to putting the city on the global map.

A recent addition to this growing list is the TIFF Bell Lightbox, a complex that is the result of many parties working in concert. Founded in 1976, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is an annual event which has been gaining increasing importance in the global film industry in recent years. TIFF staff had long been operating out of relatively dismal office space at Yonge and Carlton Streets for years, and was in desperate need of a new home. Several years ago, Hollywood film producer and director Ivan Reitman stepped in, and with his sisters Agi Mandel and Susan Michaels, donated the land on which the Lightbox now sits. Reitman’s parents were Holocaust survivors from the former Czechoslovakia who immigrated to Canada in the 1950s, and a decade later, purchased Farb’s Car Wash at the northwest corner of the King and John Street intersection. Another party eventually joined in the venture—The Daniels Corporation—who, along with the Reitman family, formed the King and John Festival Corporation (KJFC). The TIFF Group, along with KJFC, are the official developers of the project.

Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects (KPMB) won the design competition for the project in 2003, and they could not have been more familiar with the site, as their offices are located directly across the street in the Eclipse Whitewear Building. Principals Bruce Kuwabara and Shirley Blumberg have been in this very same location since the mid-1970s, when they both began their professional careers with architect Barton Myers, who then owned the building with former partner Jack Diamond. Kuwabara and Blumberg have witnessed the evolution of the neighbourhood practically every day for three and a half decades; what better design team to understand the urban context of the Lightbox?

The complete article is available in the February 2011 issue of Canadian Architect, and online at:



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