Architecture Professor Leads Preservation Effort in Toronto

Ontario Park
Thursday, February 14, 2019
Professor Jeff Balmer has launched a petition to save Ontario Park.

Architecture professor Jeff Balmer has initiated an effort in Toronto to preserve Ontario Place, a waterfront park designed in the early 1970s by Bauhaus-trained architect Eberhard Zeidler. Balmer grew up in Toronto and in a recent article in Canada’s Global News, remembers visiting the park.

“I remember full well the incredible impact that Ontario Place had on kids and parents of my generation,” Balmer said. “It was innovative, imaginative, and most importantly, economically accessible - a showcase for all Ontarians.”

Since it opened in 1971, Ontario Place has been a significant public space and entertainment venue in Toronto, a place to hear music concerts and see IMAX movies. The park was closed to the public in 2012 as a result of fallen revenues and attendance and a tight provincial budget. Doug Ford, premier of Ontario, has recently called for proposals to redevelop the area.

Balmer has created an online petition on to preserve Ontario Place. He calls the park one of the most “striking and culturally significant” works of modernist architecture in the city. According to Balmer, Eberhard Zeidler is celebrated internationally for his work, and the space should be protected as an architectural and urban landmark and should not be re-developed by private interest as casinos or condos.

The existing Ontario Place buildings, including the Cinesphere, pods, and the archipelago of small interconnected islands, are a significant landmark of 20th-century architecture in Canada,” Balmer told Global News. (The article has been republished in Canadian Architect magazine.)

Balmer has led earlier petition efforts to save historic structures in Toronto. In 2013, his efforts resulted in the preservation of the historic Sam the Record Man sign from a demolished record shop, and in 2017 he launched an effort to save the McLaughlin Planetarium at the University of Toronto.