This is an extract from the book East/West by Mark Fram, Michael McClelland and Nancy Byrtus, published by Coach House Books.
Garden Court Apartments
1477 Bayview Avenue
Architects: Forsey Page and Steele
Landscape Architects: Dunington-Grubb and Stensson
The Garden Court Apartment housing development is one of the best examples in Toronto of skillful integration of architecture and landscape architecture. The project, built between 1939 and 1941, was the result of the close collaboration of architects Forsey Page and Steele with Dunington-Grubb and Stensson, the city’s best-known landscape architectural firm of the period. The property covers a 5.5-acre site located in Leaside, then a growing suburban residential area some 3.5 miles northeast of Toronto’s central business district.
Garden Court’s “beautiful park-like surroundings” were described in 1939, when many of the units first went on the rental market, as a “new concept in urban living dealing with satisfying various residential needs within a single area.” Accordingly, accommodation suitable for many different family types was provided in one- or two-bedroom apartment units, in either a two- or three-storey walk-up building or as a two-storey, two-bedroom unit in a semi-detached building. The building plans eliminated long corridors by having separate entrances and stairways serving four to six apartments, and each apartment extends from one side of the building to the other.
Coverage of the site is only about a quarter of the whole area, and the buildings are grouped to ensure plenty of light and air in the units and no “near facing” windows. The last few buildings to be built were enlarged slightly in plan by eliminating the balconies of the units, and minor changes were made to the exterior detailing. Durable materials were used throughout and, 60 years later, the buildings are fully occupied with a waiting list. The landscape is as inviting as ever, but clearly the lollypop luminaires, concrete planters, and scattered garden statuary are not original.
[Architectural drawings for The Garden Court Apartments are in the Page and Steele Collection at the Archives of Ontario. Five original drawings for the landscape survive in the Dunington-Grubb/Stensson Collection at the University of Guelph. The regular spacing of weeping trees is characteristic of the firm, as is the extensive use of hedging, especially Alpine currant (recommended in the 1939 Sheridan Nurseries catalogue as “the most satisfactory shrub for a deciduous hedge”) and Japanese yew (“the best shrub available for an evergreen hedge of moderate height”). The clipped yews punctuating the hedges are original elements, but the Colorado spruce interrupting the axial view is probably a later addition.]
William N. Greer and Pleasance Kaufman Crawford